Mall fire accused shifting blame, says father

TRAGIC LOSS: Triplets Lillie, Jackson and Willsher Weekes, who were killed in a mall fire in Qatar in May.
TRAGIC LOSS: Triplets Lillie, Jackson and Willsher Weekes, who were killed in a mall fire in Qatar in May.

Defendants charged over the Doha mall fire that claimed the lives of Wellington triplets last year are trying to shift the blame for the tragedy, the triplets' father says.

Martin Weekes, the father of the two-year-old triplets Lillie, Jackson and Willsher, who were killed in the fire, said the defendants were all playing the blame game.

The Villagio Mall fire claimed the lives of 19 in May last year - 13 of them children at the mall's Gympanzee nursery - and the hearing to find who was responsible started last month.

So far, the court has heard of several safety issues in the mall, such as locked emergency exits and highly flammable paint used for decorations.

An official report found the fire started in faulty wiring within a fluorescent light in a Nike store, from which smoke spread rapidly to the neighbouring nursery.

Parents of children killed in the fire say they have been subjected to "horrible" questions during a criminal hearing.

Qatari news site Doha News reported in the last session, the court discussed whether Gympanzee violated the terms of its commercial licence.

Documentation showed Gympanzee was licensed by the Ministry of Business and Trade as a playroom for children.

Parents told the Doha News that if the nursery had been properly licensed, civil defence officials would have been aware there were children inside, and their rescue would have been prioritised.

They also said they felt insulted and attacked by the questions, which included inquiries about where they were during the fire, and why they enrolled their children in the daycare.

"What is now happening in the courts is the defendants are all blaming each other and blaming the government," Weekes said.

"None of this helps the families have closure."

Another parent said she felt like she was being accused for the deaths.

"They're telling us, 'you're responsible for their deaths'. Unbelievable," she said.

A teacher at the daycare, a firefighter, and the husband of a teacher who was killed in the fire, will testify later in the month.

The Dominion Post