31 May 2012

MFAT working to bring triplets home

2:58 pm on 31 May 2012

The New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs is working to arrange the return of the bodies of the three children who died in a blaze at a shopping mall in Qatar.

The fire engulfed parts of the Villagio Mall in the capital Doha on Monday killing 19 people, including New Zealand triplets Lillie, Jackson and Willsher Weekes, aged 2 who were at the Gympanzee day care centre.

The New Zealand Consul in Saudi Arabia, Brian Chambers, is providing support to the Weekes family as they prepare to bring the triplets home and is liaising with officials to work through paperwork and logistics.

New Zealand's Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully says there is quite a lot of pressure on the Weekes family at present and Mr Chambers is providing as much help as he can.

Parents don't blame anyone for deaths

Jane and Martin Weekes have given their first media interview since the deaths. In an interview with Ian Sinclair of Television New Zealand's Sunday programme, the couple said Lillie, Jackson and Willsher were a blessing.

Five arrests have so far been ordered following the blaze, including the owners of the mall and the day care centre.

Martin Weekes told Sunday the couple do not blame anyone for the deaths and accept that it was just a horrible accident.

"I don't feel that arresting anyone actually helps at this stage, because we don't know what happened. You can't hold people accountable without knowing the situation. And what occurred needs to be understood, it needs to be learnt from and it never needs to happen again."

Jane Weekes says she trusted the teachers in the day care centre and is heartbroken they also died while trying to save the children.

Mr Weekes says the family felt safe in Qatar and hopes the tragedy does not affect anyone's feelings about the country in the Middle East.

He says the couple will return to Wellington for a few weeks to grieve with family and friends.

"Sadnesses happen, but there's so much happiness from the two years - the memories of the time we spent can never be taken away from us."

Mr Weekes says they hope to hold a public funeral service in Wellington late next week.