Father says firefighter should have saved child in Grenfell blaze

Father whose five-year-old son died in Grenfell Tower blaze tells inquiry firefighter who told family to stay put should have ‘at least’ rescued one of the trapped children

  • Paulos Tekle’s five-year-old, Isaac, died as the family fled through the stairwells
  • Firefighters initially told the father to stay put with his children on the 18th floor
  • Mr Tekle was told he could leave through smoke-filled stairwells 50 minutes later
  • He says no rescue attempt was made by firefighters when they arrived at his flat

Isaac (pictured) choked to death in a stairwell when he and his family tried to flee 

A firefighter who told a family to remain on the 18th storey of Grenfell Tower should have ‘at least’ rescued one of the trapped children, said a resident whose son choked to death in the blaze.

Paulos Tekle considered jumping from the floor while clutching his young children as he desperately waited for fire crews to rescue them.

Two firefighters reached the flat at around 2am, but advised the family to stay inside. 

The brigade told him to leave around 50 minutes later and he fled with his family and neighbours, losing his young son Isaac in the smoke-filled stairwell.

A total of 72 people perished as a result of the blaze in the west London block on June 14 last year. 

Mr Tekle learned that his five-year-old had died through a BBC news report, with authorities confirming this 11 days later, he told the public inquiry into the fire today.  

In his written statement, Mr Tekle said it was ‘very upsetting’ that the firefighter who knocked on his door made no attempt to rescue the family.

If they had received ‘proper instructions’ they would have attempted to leave, he added.

‘The first thing that I did was to ask him that we be helped out of the flat,’ he said. ‘The firefighter said that we were safe in the flat and that we should just cover the front door with a blanket, and he described how to cover the letterbox and the door.

‘I remember saying to him: “There are two children here”. I told him repeatedly that there were two children in the flat. I said this to emphasise the fact that we needed immediate help.

A total of 72 people died as a result of the fire, including five-year-old Isaac, whose father says that firefighters did not try to rescue him when they came to the 18th floor 

‘After he left, I even thought that I should have told him that at least he should take one of the children. That’s what I thought after he left and I now note that he did not offer to do this.’

While Mr Tekle, his partner, Genet, and their youngest son managed to escape, Isaac, who was being carried by a man who lived in the flat opposite, became lost. His body was recovered from the stairwell on the 13th floor.

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The anxious father spent days ‘desperately hoping’ his son was alive, only for the BBC to confirm his death.

Mr Tekle said he could not understand how the broadcaster had found out before his family were informed.

‘The family liaison officer (FLO) told me that I should wait for confirmation from them and not the media,’ he said. ‘Later on the FLO informed us that no child fitting the description, given by Genet and I, was on any of the hospital patient lists.

Mr Tekle learned that Isaac had died through a news report after firefighters initially told him and his family to stay on the 18th floor

‘I think it was 11 days later that the FLO advised us that he had been identified.’

Mr Tekle added that he had ‘firmly trusted’ that they would be rescued and there was no need to make their own way out.

‘I trusted the authorities and I believed they were coming to rescue us,’ he said. ‘Otherwise I would have taken the children and Genet and we would have left. There was no need to leave because we believed we were going to be rescued.’ 

The public inquiry is in its first phase at Holborn Bars in central London and is hearing evidence from survivors of the fire and those who lost loved ones.

Mr Tekle described how he climbed onto the window ledge of the 18th-floor flat to see if it would be possible to jump holding one of his sons. He also wanted to attract attention, and to get a better idea of the fire’s progress.

In his written statement, he said: ‘If the fire came into the flat, I thought that rather than being burnt alive I was going to jump from the window.

‘I told Isaac “I will hold you and we will jump together”. I did not want myself and my family to suffer painful deaths.

‘I also thought that if we jumped and fell down on our backs holding our children we could cushion their falls and there was a chance that they would live.’

Mr Tekle denied telling the firefighter who knocked on his door that he was safe in his flat.

The inquiry has previously heard evidence from firefighter Gregory Lawson, who said a man told him he was safe and did not want to talk when he knocked on the door of an 18th-floor flat.

‘That’s a joke, I’m sorry,’ Mr Tekle replied, his voice slightly raised, adding: ‘I did not say this, there is no way in a million years I am going to say (this) because I am desperate to leave.’


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