Father whose son died in Grenfell says firefighter should have rescued child

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.

‘I have something which I’m going to read. It’s very difficult but I have to,’ he said. ‘I must live with the image and thought of my little boy left alone on the stairs of horror all night. But our nightmare doesn’t end there.

‘Our little boy was trampled. This is very painful to sit here and tell you, but I have to because I need you to please feel and hear why.

‘I have been let down by London Fire Brigade, my son would have been alive today if we had been allowed to leave earlier.’

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 

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.

Mr Tekle said he had since learned that a firefighter who had walked down the stairs with the group did not hold his son’s hand.

‘I don’t understand why the fireman prioritised the man holding my child, an adult, over my son Isaac. If they had held my son’s hand I truly believe he would have been alive today.

‘What is shocking me, the man who held my son, he had been helped all the way from top to bottom… and he’s been holding in one hand the fireman, another hand my son.

‘Why didn’t that fireman hold my son’s hand? It’s very hard to wait this long to listen to this. I am very angry and I have been let down.’

Sir Martin Moore-Bick said: ‘Mr Tekle, I can understand your anger and you’ve had a terrible experience, you and Genet, and I’m sorry we’ve had to ask you to come and talk about it again today.

‘I say on my own behalf, and I suspect on behalf of everyone else here, how sorry we are about the terrible loss of your son Isaac and offer you and Genet our condolences, as far as that can be any help at all.’

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

The father told the inquiry today that the firefighter should have at least saved one of his children

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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