Four Grenfell Tower residents accidentally left to die after mix-up, inquiry hears

Four Grenfell Tower residents were accidentally left to die in an upper-floor flat after a calamitous mix-up during the rescue effort, an inquiry has heard.

Thursday, 6th September 2018, 5:33 pm
Updated Thursday, 6th September 2018, 5:42 pm
Grenfell Tower. Picture: PA

Eight tenants from the 14th floor had been told by firefighters to hunker down in flat 113 and await rescue - but only four were taken out.

It emerged at the Grenfell Tower inquiry on Thursday that the team tasked with saving them were under the impression only a family of three were in the flat.

But, in an extraordinary divergence of accounts, rescuer Peter Herrera had his story called into question by survivor Omar al-Haj Ali, whose brother Mohammad died that night.

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Grenfell Tower. Picture: PA

The Lambeth firefighter was accused of being '˜mistaken' - and challenged about how he could have missed four people in the flat if he had '˜looked properly'.

Mr Herrera insisted he did not '˜make this up', but closed his evidence saying he was '˜very, very, very sorry' if anyone thought he had failed them.

He told the hearing at Holborn Bars he had arrived at flat 113 to find the electricity out and the family of three - Oluwaseun Talabi, his partner and their young daughter.

The family were '˜reluctant' to leave, but he pulled them out and sent them down the stairs with his colleagues.

He then noticed a '˜silhouette' in the flat, according to his written statement, which transpired to be Omar al-Haj Ali.

Omar had been with Mohammad and their 14th-floor neighbours Denis Murphy, Zainab Deen and her young son Jeremiah.

The firefighter asked the man if anyone else was left in the flat and was allegedly told: '˜No, I'm the last one.'

Omar was quickly rushed down the stairwell with Mr Talabi and his family.

The firefighter claimed he only realised the mistake later in the night, when he saw Omar on the phone to his trapped brother outside the tower.

His statement said: '˜He then went on to say, 'I am still on the phone to him, he is on his knees praying'. He also said, 'I was mistaken'.

'˜I remember saying to (crew manager Benjamin McAlonen), 'oh f***'.

'˜There seemed to be some confusion as I recall 'Syrian man' being very clear earlier that no-one else was in the flat. I said to him 'don't worry, I will sort it out'.'

But his version of both conversations was hotly contested by Mr al-Haj Ali.

The survivor, who was present at the hearing along with Mr Talabi, claimed he never said the flat was empty, nor did he later admit being '˜mistaken'.