UK

Grenfell Tower inquiry: Dad blames firefighters for son's death

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Media caption'My Isaac would be here today' - Grenfell father

A five-year-old boy "would likely be alive" had firefighters not told his family to stay put, the boy's father has told the Grenfell Tower inquiry.

Paulos Tekle said he had to "live with the guilt", after the fire brigade repeatedly told his family to stay in their 13th floor flat.

Mr Tekle said he was told to stay put more than an hour after the fire began.

After eventually leaving the flat, his son, Isaac Paulos, died after reportedly getting lost in the smoke.

Speaking on the sixth day of the Grenfell commemoration hearings, Mr Tekle told the inquiry: "Our friends and neighbours were calling me and telling me to get out, the fire is spreading too fast up the building," he said.

Mr Tekle called his friends to warn them of the fire, and they all lived. But he was told to stay in his flat after speaking to the fire brigade over the phone on two separate occasions.

At 02:00, firefighters reached his family's flat, but Mr Tekle said they were told again to stay where they were.

It wasn't until 45 minutes later they were told to leave. "I listened to the authority and that makes me angry," Mr Tekle said.

"Why we were kept inside for so long? I want answers. I want to know why I was physically stopped from leaving the flat at 2am.

"If I had not listened to the fire brigade my son would have likely be alive today."

In July, BBC Newsnight reported that the "stay put" advice lasted almost two hours after the fire was reported.

The advice is based on the assumption that fire can be contained, and won't spread to other flats, which are protected by their walls and doors.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Sakineh Afrasiabi and her younger sister Fatima Afrasiabi had managed to reach the higher floors of the tower, thinking they would be rescued

In another tribute, the eldest daughter of Sakineh Afrasiabi, who died with her sister Fatemeh Afrasiabi, said she had lost her "only friend and protector".

In a statement read by the family's solicitor, Shiva Aghlani said: "Losing a mother who was your only shield from the world is something else."

The inquiry heard that, on the night of the fire, despite living on the 18th floor, Ms Afrasiabi and her sister reached the 23rd floor, where "she believed that help was coming from above to rescue her".

Ms Aghlani said "a tooth and a piece of her jaw bone" was all she buried of her mother.

"I wish I could have been there that night," she said. "I would have saved you and your sister, I would have helped you down the stairs."

Image copyright Grenfell Tower Inquiry
Image caption Berkti Haftom, 29, with her son Biruk, 12, who both died in the fire

The family of Berkti Haftom, 29, and her 12-year-old son Biruk also gave a series of emotional tributes.

A statement read by her sisters revealed Ms Haftom was 10 weeks pregnant at the time of her death.

Her only surviving son Nahom Tesfay, 18, said he now felt "alone".

Nahom grew up in Eritrea, where he was raised by his grandmother, but would speak regularly to his mother in the UK and was due to join her in London.

"I was looking forward to living with my mum and my little brother but the fire changed everything," he said.

Day-by-day: the inquiry so far

The girlfriend of Mohammad Alhajali, 23, told the inquiry how she received a message from him just before the fire took hold, saying: "Hey, are you sleeping? I'm home now."

Mr Alhajali - a Syrian refugee - had fled his home country and had been in London for three years. His girlfriend Amal said the couple had hoped to marry.

"He liked his life here. He enjoyed it, but Syria was his home. He missed it so much," she said in a video tribute.

"He was a huge part of my life. He taught me to love myself. Right now when I think about my future, I don't really see anything."

Image copyright Grenfell Tower Inquiry
Image caption Mohammad Alhajali came to London as a refugee having fled his home country of Syria

Former flatmate and friend Mahmoud Al-Karad, said Mr Alhajali had spoken to him during the fire on 14 June.

"He was in there with a mother and her child. I told him to get out, that he should leave.

"His reply shows the kind of man that he was. He said: 'How can I leave? How can I leave the child?'"

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Media captionMariem Elgwahry 'did not reveal danger in final phone call'

Ahmed Elgwahry described a final phone call with sister Mariem, 27, and mother Eslah, 64, who were both trapped on the building's highest floor.

He said he stood helpless outside the tower and only disconnected the call an hour after they had fallen silent.

"On my final call with Mariem - despite her suffering, despite her gradual deterioration, despite her gradual loss of consciousness - she persisted in letting me know that she was still there," he said.

"She started fading away from me rather rapidly... she started to mumble, started banging the floor, and then finally no longer responsive."

He said he then heard his mother's final words: "I can't breathe, I can't breathe."

Image copyright Metropolitan Police
Image caption Hamid Kani will be remembered for his smile, Masoud Shahabeddin said

Hamid Kani, 61, "will not be remembered for the way he died - but for the way he lived," his cousin Masoud Shahabeddin said.

The two came to London in the 1970s from Iran. "He fell in love with London and its people," Mr Shahabeddin said.

Mr Kani worked as an actor and later a chef and spent 22 "happy years" living in Grenfell Tower.

Mr Shahabeddin said his friend would be remembered for his sense of humour, warmth, his love of family and his compassion for others.

Image copyright Grenfell Tower Inquiry
Image caption Gloria Trevisan was a "beautiful girl", whose kindness and big heart "didn't go unnoticed for anyone"

The mother of Italian architect Gloria Trevisan, who died alongside her fiance Marco Gottardi, urged families and survivors to use their anger as "the catalyst for finding the truth, because that is what everybody really wants".

Speaking through an interpreter, Emmanuella Trevisan said she asked her daughter to come home to Italy for an anniversary on the same day as the fire, but Gloria decided to travel later.

She said she hoped those "who took the decision to put that cladding on that tower" will "feel it in their conscience, the pain and the grief caused to all of us".

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Media captionAbu Baker Ibrahim was applauded at the inquiry, as were other victims' relatives

A man who lost his mother, brother and sister in the fire, gave an emotional tribute to his family.

Fathia Ahmed, 71, was found on the 23rd floor with her children Abufars Ibrahim, 39, and Isra Ibrahim, 33.

Abu Baker Ibrahim said he missed "everything" about his mother. The family came to England from Sudan, after his father was killed in the 1980s.

"We enjoyed our time in England... My mother worked hard in a foreign land to keep us together... (she) was given flat 206 in Grenfell Tower in 2007."

Describing his grief, he said: "You can sit and pretend that it's OK, but the minute you close that door and you're by yourself, it's horrible.

"I miss them. It's like having a clear vision and now it's just pure darkness."

Image copyright Grenfell Tower Inquiry
Image caption Hassan Awadh Hassan paid tribute to his wife Rania Ibrahim and their two daughters

Hassan Awadh Hassan paid a tearful tribute to his wife Rania Ibrahim and daughters Fethia, four, and Hania, three.

Supported by his family and friends, Mr Hassan - who was in Egypt when the fire happened - wore a t-shirt printed with a picture of his wife and daughters and the words "I love you".

He said the family had moved into the tower in 2015. However, even before they started living there, he said his wife expressed concerns about fire safety.

Mr Hassan said: "When I spoke to my friend I asked him my wife's question: 'If there is a fire, what do we have to do?' and he tells me 'Hassan, don't worry, this building is safe - if the flat next to you is on fire then nothing happens to your flat'."

Image copyright PA
Image caption Rania Ibrahim and her daughters Fethia, four, and Hania, three, died in the fire

At the inquiry

By Jennifer Scott, BBC News

If you think about the first thing you would save in a fire, many of us would reach for the photo albums.

The precious memories encapsulated in those pages mean the world to those who took them.

But we all hope to never have to make that call.

Hassan Adwah Hassan shared those moments today to show the Grenfell Inquiry what he had lost - his wife, Rania Ibrahim, and his two daughters, Fethia and Hania.

People watched the emotional slideshow with pictures of his wedding day, the birth of his babies and the celebrations as they grew older.

They smiled as the two little girls demanded papa cut the birthday cake, played in the bath or showed off their art from nursery.

And they cried as they saw him embracing his girls on holidays, picnicking in the park and spending time with the family and friends they loved, knowing they could never be repeated.

They are all scenarios we cherish with our own loved ones, and Hassan's life after Grenfell is one we cannot begin to imagine.

This week is half-term and some of the survivors of the tragedy have brought their children with them.

After such a moving tribute, they were sure to have been holding their families that little bit closer.

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