Sofia family to Abela: public inquiry into Jean Paul’s horrific death could save lives

Family of Jean Paul Sofia: ‘This was no accident... this was as much the result of inaction by State entities as of actions of persons involved in the site’s development’

Jean Paul Sofia
Jean Paul Sofia

The parents of Jean Paul Sofia, the young victim of a construction accident, have renewed their heartfelt plea to Prime Minister Robert Abela for a public inquiry into the death of their son.

The Sofia family said only an independent and impartial public inquiry capable of summoning authorities, state representatives, and relevant stakeholders to testify, and tasked with inquiring whether there were any administrative, regulatory and legislative shortcomings, and with making recommendations, would Jean Paul’s death not have been in vain.

“Prime Minister Abela two days ago publicly acknowledged that more regulation is needed.... Our son’s death is not a partisan issue. His death, together with the death and injury of others on construction sites, clearly shows that there are systemic failures.

“Public entities are reasonably expected to have been aware of such failures, and ought to have taken the necessary measures to prevent loss of life and injury. Only a public inquiry can provide us with answers it is our right to have and with the satisfaction of knowing that future deaths will be prevented. A magisterial inquest cannot do this, and it is incorrect to suggest otherwise,” the Sofia family said.

Sofia was killed in a construction site accident last December, after a three-storey building he was working at collapsed during construction works. Five men - three Albanian, a Maltese and a Bosnian were rescued by members of the Civil Protection Department.

Magistrate Marseann Farrugia is conducting an inquiry into the incident. Despite multiple calls for a public inquiry, Prime Minister Robert Abela has dismissed the requests, insisting the ongoing magisterial inquiry should be allowed to end.

“Justice for our son does not begin and end with the prosecution and eventual conviction of those who are allegedly criminally liable for his death,” the Sofia said of Abela’s refusal for a public inquiry. “Full justice for Jean Paul also means an inquiry into whether State authorities or representatives failed in their obligation to safeguard his life and failed to take preventative measures to protect him and others from the risk of loss of life and physical injury.”

The family took issue with Abela’s comparison of Jean Paul Sofia’s case with that of another victim, saing the State had failed to learn lessons from the death of Miriam pace, and to apply them in preventing real risk to life and injury.

“A magistrate’s inquest is not capable of identifying State failure, nor administrative, regulatory and legislative gaps, and therefore cannot make recommendations for the elimination of the risk to life and injury at construction sites. Were that the case, not only would Jean Paul still be alive, but many others would also not have suffered injury,” the Sofias said.

“The loss of a son is always tragic. The circumstances in which Jean Paul died are horrific. He died buried under a collapsed building amid stone, bricks, and fresh concrete. It took fifteen hours to find his body and extract him from the debris. This was no accident occurring as a result of a natural disaster. This was as much the result of inaction by State entities, and administrative, regulatory and legislative failure, as it was the result of actions of persons involved in the site’s development.”

The Sofias said they wanted to know who is criminally responsible for their son’s death but said calls for hastiness are futile and capable of prejudicing the seriousness of the process.

“Meanwhile, we reiterate our call to Prime Minister Robert Abela to appoint a board for the holding of a public inquiry into the circumstances of Jean Paul’s untimely death. As the head of government it falls upon him to initiate an objective inquiry into whether Jean Paul’s death was preventable had there been timely action by authorities, adequate regulation and legislation, and adequate and efficient processes and procedures in place.

“A public inquiry carried out by competent, independent and impartial persons, into the administrative, regulatory and legislative gaps, inaction or failings which may have contributed to Jean Paul’s death, can help save the lives of others.”