The mother of Jean Paul Sofia, a 20-year-old who died in a construction collapse earlier this December, is calling for justice and a public inquiry for her slain son.

Till now, authorities and the building site owner in the incident have left the family in the dark, not calling or contacting them regarding her son’s death, Isabelle Bonnici, Jean Paul’s mother said.

She wants to ensure that this tragedy does not repeat itself while making sure that those responsible for her son’s death are brought to justice. 

“My life’s mission was my only son,” Bonnici told Times of Malta, “now my mission is to bring justice for him,” she said.

“Greed has ruined our lives,” she said. 

Jean Paul had a heart of gold and was so good to everyone around him, Bonnici said. “He wrote such a beautiful card for me on Mother's Day,” she said. 

"He should be running around with friends and enjoying his life." 

A job gone wrong

Her son was planning on sitting for his A-levels, but then opted to start working in the construction sector. 

Bonnici said she had managed to convince him to leave the industry, as she feared for his safety, and he had embarked on a new career as an air conditioner technician. 

He had been working in the job for a few months when the fateful day came. 

Bonnici told Times of Malta that he was asked by his employer, who owns an air conditioning business, to go to the building site on the day of the collapse. 

 She still does not know why her son was sent there that Saturday morning. 

“He shouldn’t have been there,” she said.

The remains of the building that collapsed on December 3, killing Jean Paul Sofia. Photo: Jonathan BorgThe remains of the building that collapsed on December 3, killing Jean Paul Sofia. Photo: Jonathan Borg

What happened was not just a tragic accident, there is someone at fault, she said.

Five injured in tragic collapse

The Corradino Industrial Estate construction site where Jean Paul was killed was being developed into a timber factory.

Matthew Joseph Schembri, who runs a turnkey business as well as air conditioning firm, appeared as the project applicant.

The land it was being built on is leased to Kurt Buhagiar, a Lands Authority insider who is close to its CEO. 

Adriana Zammit, who works for Infrastructure Malta as an architect and also runs a private practice, was the project's architect. 

Five workers were rescued from the rubble of the collapse on that December 3 collapse, with three of those seriously injured. Jean Paul was the only fatality, and was only found following a 14-hour search that ended at 2am. 

Police have not charged anyone with a crime. The Building and Construction Authority has not made any public statements. 

A mother's grief

The tragedy took away Isabelle Bonnici's only child.

“You cannot imagine what I felt during those hours,” Jean Paul’s mother said. 

The grieving mother said that it cannot be that no one is held responsible for her son’s death. 

“Even if those responsible go to jail, they would still be better off than me,” she said.  “They have ruined my life,” she said. 

“Only a mother who has passed through what I did can understand,” Bonnici said, adding that Jean Paul's father was also deeply distraught. 

Bonnici wants a public inquiry for people, authorities, herself, and her family to know what happened, with the hope that such a tragedy does not repeat itself.

Bonnici added that there needs to be more enforcement on construction sites. 

So far, she and Jean Paul’s family have been kept in the dark on the ongoings of the active magisterial inquiry. 

Construction minister Stefan Zrinzo Azzopardi visited to offer his condolences, Bonnici said, however, no one involved in the incident, including the building site owner has contacted her or any of her family in any way.

Jean Paul’s uncle Fabian Scerri De Carlo took to Facebook, to call for justice. 

“Our Family is crushed, too many unanswered questions. Who is the project Manager? Who are the builders? are they skilled builders? Who is responsible? Whose family is next? We love you and miss you tremendously Jean Paul,” he said. 

The Facebook post was accompanied by a photo montage of Jean-Pierre with family and friends at different stages of his life up until the present.

Construction is the most dangerous industry in Malta.

The Occupational Health and Safety Authority reported 19 workplace fatalities between 2019 and 2021, of which 17 were in the construction industry.

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