Paulos Tekle, whose son Isaac Paulos died in the fire, says he wishes he had ignored the firefighters and saved his son
A father of a five-year-old who died in the Grenfell Tower fire has said his son would probably be alive had he not followed the advice of emergency services who advised him to stay put.
Paulos Tekle, whose son Isaac Paulos died, said he was plagued with guilt over listening to the authorities instead of fleeing the building as his neighbours begged him to get out.
Revealing how the pain of his loss had left him feeling dead, the distraught father sobbed as he told of how only truth and justice would be able to make him whole again.
Mr Tekle said: ‘I want the truth. I will not have peace until I have the truth. I want to know why I was physically stopped from leaving the flat at about 2am.
‘Why we were kept inside for so long? I want answers. If I had not listened to the fire brigade my son would have likely been alive today.’
He added: ‘I will have to live with the guilt of not protecting my son every day. I am broken, and now the only thing that can make me whole again is to fight for truth and justice in Isaac’s name and for my living son and for their mother.’
Mr Tekle said he kept ringing the fire brigade, who repeatedly told the family to stay put even as neighbours were calling them, telling them to get out.
At around 2am a firefighter at the door told them again to stay in the 18th-floor flat, and 45 minutes went by before they were advised to leave.
Mr Tekle went on: ‘But every day I ask myself the same question: what if I had not listened and we had left right then and there? My Isaac would be here today? I will not be sitting here telling you about my boy and our pain?
‘I should not be sitting here telling you this testimony, we could have escaped and I am living with the trauma of asking myself this question over and over again.’
Ahmed Elgwahry was given a standing ovation at the Grenfell Tower inquiry as he described his final phone call with his mother and sister who died in the tragedy
Isaac – the eldest of his two little boys – was a ‘beautiful little boy, with so much potential’.
Mr Tekle said he would never forget the ‘big beautiful eyes’ of his little man, who he said he had ‘so many plans’ for.
The youngster loved school, Taekwondo and swimming, he recalled, while teachers spoke of how the outdoor park was his favourite place.
He went on: ‘But we will never know what was in store for Isaac. Just as in the Bible, God tested Abraham’s faith by ordering him to sacrifice his son Isaac, but an angel prevented the act in the last minute. For us, there was no last minute. There was no last-minute angel.
‘Isaac, my little boy, was sacrificed? Why?’
Describing the pain, he said: ‘I feel as if my head has been cut off, I feel as if I am dead.’
Meanwhile, a man whose mother and sister died in the Grenfell Tower fire was given a standing ovation today as he described helplessly waiting on the phone as they were swamped by the flames.
Mr Elgwahry, said he was on the phone to his younger sister, Mariem Elgwahry, 27, (left and right) and mother Eslah, 64, who died on the top floor of the high-rise block
Ahmed Elgwahry, said he spoke to his younger sister, Mariem Elgwahry, 27, when she and their mother Eslah Elgwahry, 64, took refuge on the top floor of the high-rise block in North Kensington, west London.
He stayed on the phone for an hour after his sister and mother’s voices ceased and all he could hear was the crackle of flames.
Their remains were later recovered from the 23rd floor – but they were only fragments because of the ferocity of the fire.
Speaking slowly and calmly, Mr Elgwahry described how he stood at the bottom of the tower and realised that running in to try to save them would have been an act of suicide.
He told the inquiry on its sixth day of commemorative hearings: ‘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.
Mariem Elgwahry insisted on telling her brother she was ‘still there’ until she perished in the smoke and flames
‘She started fading away from me rather rapidly, but she kept going all the way until she was no longer audible. She started to mumble, started banging the floor, and then finally no longer responsive.
‘It was at this point I presumed I lost my mum at the same time. But then about 20 seconds later, for the first time that early morning, I heard my mum’s voice.
‘She was struggling for breath, and said her last words: ‘I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe’. That was the last time I heard her voice. She was so frightened that she had not spoken prior to this.’
He disconnected the call more than an hour after their final moments, he said, when all he could hear was the crackle of fire.
As he finished his tribute, applause filled the room and he was given a standing ovation.
Months later, only fragments of their bodies were recovered by the coroner and her team, who attempted to piece them back together ‘bone for bone, as if they were dinosaurs’.
‘Before that, I was hoping, just maybe, I would be able to hold them for one last time,’ Mr Elgwahry said.
Ahmed Elgwahry stood at the base of the tower but said he knew he would also die if he tried to enter
Mr Elgwahry’s father died years ago from an aggressive form of cancer, he said.
But on the night of the fire, he said he ‘felt like my father died again and a large part of our life, important memories were wiped out, erased in a matter of minutes’.
The commemorations are being heard at the Millennium Gloucester Hotel in South Kensington.
Eleven other victims will also be remembered on Tuesday, including five-year-old Isaac Paulos.
72 people died inside Grenfell Tower – the worst fire in Britain for a generation
‘Life has stopped since I lost my wife and daughters’, says father of two who bought his children chocolate believing they were alive
A father whose young daughters and wife died in Grenfell Tower said his life has ‘fully stopped’, as an inquiry heard details of victims’ final moments.
Hassan Awadh Hassan had been in Egypt when his wife Rania Ibrahim, 31, and daughters Fethia, four, and Hania, three, became trapped in the west London inferno.
He told the public inquiry into the disaster that his ‘only mistake’ was moving the family into the flat, having been assured there was no danger in the event of a blaze.
During an emotional morning of commemorations, the probe, which is holding seven days of tributes to the dead, also heard the parting words of several victims.
Hassan Awadh Hassan had been in Egypt when his wife Rania Ibrahim, 31, and daughters Fethia, four, and Hania, three, became trapped in the west London inferno
Hassan struggled for composure as he spoke about his family, supported by two loved ones at his side.
A video tribute was then played, which showed him sitting with a framed picture of his wife and daughters at his side.
He said: ‘What happened in Grenfell Tower is not normal. For me, life has fully stopped. I know if I keep talking I’m not going to get Rania, Fethia and Hania back.’
Remembering the day of the fire, he described rushing to the airport in Egypt after seeing chaos unfolding on television.
‘When I’m inside the airport, I go to duty free to buy chocolate for my two daughters. I think, ‘How can I go back empty-handed?’.
Hassan has begged the inquiry to make sure the tragedy of Grenfell is never repeated
‘I arrive here on the same day, I never had in my mind that my wife and my daughter is going to be lost.
‘Why do I say that? Because we’re in London, in London, in London.’
He had sought to reassure his trapped wife over the phone before leaving, a sorry experience shared by many that night.
A video of the Hassan family was played at the inquiry, showing the couple at their wedding, along with pictures of their daughters growing up.
Addressing the judge afterwards, he said: ‘We need to make sure this doesn’t happen again in London, in all of UK.’
A neighbour of Ms Ibrahim, Munira Mahmud, spoke of the cruel moment her hopes were raised that the mother and daughters were alive.
She was searching for her friend early in the morning when she was contacted on Facebook and told one of the daughters had been found.
She said: ‘Later we went to the neighbour’s house, I left the kids and started looking for the kids and Rania. And Rania was nowhere to be seen.
‘And some bad people out there were playing with our emotions – ‘We have seen Rania’s first daughter in the ambulance’ – and we start praising the Lord, Rania’s alive, the kids are alive.
‘Then someone calls me on Facebook – ‘I have Rania’s daughter’ – and we ran like mad people on the street.’
She kept searching and refused to give up on her friend, even when she was shown a Snapchat message from her friend asking for forgiveness and saying her last prayers.
A few days later she asked God for a sign that they were alive or dead.
‘I went to sleep and I see Rania, all in white, and the kids. She was smiling like, ‘I’m no more here, Munira’.
‘She told me Hania went first, and then Fethia followed, and then Rania went.
‘I woke up, I said thank you God.’
Italian architect’s parents fly into the UK to remember their ‘beautiful’ daughter who died in her boyfriend’s arms
An Italian architect who died in the Grenfell Tower fire has been remembered by her mother and father.
Gloria Trevisan’s parents travelled to the UK to commemorate their daughter, 26, who lived with her fiance Marco Gottardi in the tower block.
A voiceover in a video tribute package said Gloria was a ‘beautiful girl’ whose kindness and big heart ‘didn’t go unnoticed for anyone who met her’.
Marco, it was said, ‘held her in his arms until the last breath, to protect her’.
‘Beautiful’ Italian architect Gloria Trevisan (pictured) died on the 23rd floor of Grenfell Tower alongside her boyfriend Marco Gottardi, who held her to his dying breath
Loris Trevisan and Emmanuela Disaro, parents of Gloria, outside the commemoration hearings at the Grenfell Tower Inquiry
Her employer Peregrine Bryant, an architect specialising in restoration, said: ‘Unfortunately she was only with us for a very short time, but even in that short time she demonstrated what she could do and demonstrated what talent she had.’
Gloria’s mother, Emmanuella, said she had asked her daughter to come home to Italy for a wedding anniversary on the same day as the fire, but Gloria decided to travel later.
Gloria was an outgoing and loving person who ‘didn’t go unnoticed for anyone who met her’, her parents said
She condemned the failings that had led to her daughter’s death, while calling for ‘positive anger’ to triumph over hate so justice could be won for the victims.
Speaking through an interpreter, she said: ‘The 14th of June was my and my husband’s 37th anniversary, so I did ask Gloria to come back to Italy for the anniversary.
‘But she said she was going to come a week later because it was (a) brother’s birthday, so I can’t blame anyone for this, it was meant to be this way.’
She added: ‘I really wish that the person or the persons who took the decision to put that cladding on that tower, that caused the death of so many people for no reason, that died in vain, I really hope that that person or these persons will really feel it in their conscience, the pain and the grief caused to all of us.
‘I hope that what happened here in Grenfell can be used as an example for those who are responsible in charge of people’s lives when they make decisions generally speaking, they understand they have to have respect for everyone’s lives and not their own and that would be an example for future generations to understand how life should be respected in all contexts.’
Urging survivors and bereaved families not to be guided by hate, she said positive anger could instead be ‘the catalyst for finding the truth, because that is what everybody really wants’.
Mother who died with her 12-year-old was in the early stages of pregnancy
A mother who died alongside her 12-year-old son in Grenfell Tower was 10 weeks pregnant at the time of her death, an inquiry has heard.
Berkti Haftom, 29, lived on the 18th floor of the west London block with son Biruk when they were caught up the disaster.
A statement by her sisters read to the inquiry revealed she had been expecting her third child when she died. Her eldest son had also been due to join them in London after years of separation.
‘Biruk was so happy that his mother was going to have a baby,’ the statement said.
The Eritrean had fled her home country when conflict with Ethiopia erupted in 1998 and was forced to leave her son, Nahom Tesfay, behind in the care of her mother.
On Thursday the only surviving son, now 18, said through tears: ‘When my grandmother died in 2016, everything changed. She (Berkti) was really worried about me because I couldn’t cope on my own. Since that time she kept calling me to promise me, saying, ‘you will soon be with me’.
‘When I remember her voice you cannot even imagine how I feel. I was looking forward to living with my mum and little brother but the fire in Grenfell Tower on June 14 2017 changed everything. I didn’t see my mother for 15 years.’
Biruk’s cousin, Simon Michael, 10, said in a video tribute how he wishes he was in Grenfell Tower on the night of the fire too.
The bereaved child said Biruk, whom he called his ‘brother’, always looked after him.
He added that his cousin was always good with secrets, saying: ‘Let me tell you a secret, I wish I was with you there that night, but don’t tell my mum.’
‘I won’t forget you, brother,’ he finished.
Of his aunt, he said: ‘You didn’t die alone, a part of me left with you.’