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May 22, 2014

Elderly woman dies in fire early this morning

Orseline Wallace Gabourel

Sometime around three this morning an unknown person or persons deliberately lit the fire which destroyed a wooden house at the corner of Cran and Cleghorn streets in Belize City. Eighty-three year old Orseline Wallace Gabourel was trapped inside the home; she called for help but was unable to get out of the house and died in the flames. Her tragic death is highlighting the plight of elderly persons who live alone. Fire investigators are certain it was arson and are turning the matter over to the Police, who will then launch a criminal investigation. Mike Rudon was at the scene of the tragedy this morning and has the story.


Mike Rudon, Reporting

Eighty-three year old Orseline Gabourel lived alone in this house. And around four this morning, she died alone in it. Residents tell us that right before the Fire Service arrived Gabourel was running from window to window crying out for help. The house has only one exit – these steps, and the fire blocked it. She couldn’t get out.


Caroline Clark-Stuart, Neighbour

“The back stairs is her main entrance to her house, which is upstairs. She tried to get out but I guess that’s where the fire started. I don’t know because I wasn’t here but from what I’m looking at that’s the most damaged part of the house.”


The Fire Service reports that they got the report at three forty-four and got to the scene three minutes later. The fire was out by four am, but by then the home was almost completely destroyed. Her neighbour CC arrived there right after the firemen.


Caroline Clark-Stuart

“As we came out we said where’s Ms. Iso? Did Ms. Iso come out? They said nobody hasn’t seen here so we said where’s Ms. Iso she has to be in there? Because she’s not a person that sleeps out or goes anywhere. The most time you’d see Ms. Iso is in the daytime. And when she tiad a walk she go siddown right da da window by where the firemen took her out after her death. Right by that window she’s always sitting there, or in her horse and carriage.”


Caroline Clark-Stuart

Gabourel was found here, near the section of wall which firemen had to destroy to get her out.


Caroline Clark-Stuart

“She was already dead…all I saw when they brought her out her two hands like this, like she was fighting for life or something, and her two knees bent. It was horrible.”


Oren Smith, Station Officer, National Fire Service

“Preliminary investigations reveal that the fire originated in the lower flat, southwest corner…in that area of the building, we found no fuel package…fuel package means any combustible material, nor did we find any ignition source in the area.”


The blaze has been classified as an incendiary fire, or in layman’s terms – arson.


Oren Smith

Oren Smith

“Arson is that someone deliberately and intentionally lit a fire with malicious intent.”



“Can you describe the evidence which suggests that arson was the cause of this particular blaze sir?”


Oren Smith

“Not evidence, but the lack of it. A fire cannot start without three elements – fuel, heat and oxygen. There was no fuel package apart from the structure’s frame itself. There was no heat source in the area that you need to raise the temperature of a material for it to ignite, unless that fuel source was literally brought to that location by human intervention.”


Kathleen Grant

Today, neighbours and friends of Gabourel were extremely angry. They say the elderly woman lived in poverty, neglected and alone.


Kathleen Grant, Neighbour

“I no know if da rat or roach bite a…but e whole mouth e midi eat out and people does scorn a seca how e mouth mi stay, whateva bite a. Da house need fix Mister, you think e son do it? Minister Wilfred Elrington fix one a di steps so the lady coulda mi go een and come outside. Even di house bruk up…problem fi e gawn up and come down e step. Minister Elrington…da he fix da step fi a. Thank God fi he because if he neva fix da step e mi wah drop through it one a these days.”


Caroline Clark-Stuart

“She usually come by and ask the neighbours to help her cook and stuff. I used to help her and give her a little stuff here and there. I don’t know what happened…she’s gone. I came home from work yesterday and she was running behind me. I said not right now Ms. Iso I’m busy. I’m sorry now that I told that to her because that was the last time I saw her.”


Kathleen Grant

“We wah rememba she because…a laugh because we mi have good time with a too, even though e mi like cuss up people, bring Police fu dey seh dey tief e thing, dey do this and that…in the end she da mi wah very good individual.”


A report will be done by the Fire Service and forwarded to the Police for their follow-up. Mike Rudon for News Five.


Orseline Gabourel’s closest living relative was her son, Dennis Gabourel, who owns Horse and Carriage Tours. We went by his home today but he declined an interview.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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3 Responses for “Elderly woman dies in fire early this morning”

  1. Timber says:

    I knew this lady as a child. It’s sad. I just saw her a few weeks ago. Ah, so there you are Carolyn. I just asked about you a few months ago. You’re older, knew me as a child. Pound Yard and Chicago. Someone said you were in Belize. What a horrible death. The lady had relatives and at least a son? Hmmmmmm. We won’t pass judgment, but how can one let your own mother live in that type of situation; i.e. a run-down dilapidated house? The reason why I said I won’t pass judgment is because we on the outside don’t know the relationship between parent and child/children over the years and what transpired. However, regardless of the situation, the least that can be done is to make sure your parent is clean and has a decent place to live and food to eat. My comment is a result of the gross and severe breakdown of the family and social structure in Belize. I made sure I made some serious sacrifices to take care of mine until the day God took her. She didn’t ask for a lot but I made sure nothing was lacking; her food, personal care, medical attention. Why? I remember the sacrifices that she made for my siblings and myself as well as for plenty more children. Too many of us think we owe our parents nothing. On the flip side, we have parents who feel like our children owe them the world. It’s a two-way street. I’m not bashing you Mr. Gabourel but I hope that as they take your ONLY MOTHER to her final resting place, that your heart is “light” and you can look yourself in the mirror and also look up to God and able to tell “truthfully” tell yourself that you did your best for your mother. I’m emotional (tearing up) as I write this blog, because we only have one mother and I had one that I’d never trade in for ANYTHING. My condolences to you and your family and I apologize if I wrongfully criticized you.

  2. the voice says:

    @Timber I agree with you 100%. I didnt know the lady but I agree with you. Show your mother how much you love her today because you dont know what will happen tomorrow.

  3. J says:

    this is sad for real. it is a shame that she was abandoned like that. i certainly hope so as well Timber that he can honestly tell himself he did his best. a mother deserves the best we can give as children no matter what it takes

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