Grenfell inquiry hears powerful tributes from victims’ relatives
A father whose whole family died in the Grenfell Tower fire said his life has “fully stopped”, as another relative described hearing his loved ones take their last breaths.
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.
On the sixth day of commemoration hearings tributes were paid to 13 victims, and some of their parting words shared.
Each presentation was given a standing ovation.
An Italian architect told her parents “be strong, I hug you both, I love you” as flames swept through her home, while a mother-of-two said to her son over the phone, “I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe”.
Hassan struggled for composure as he spoke about his family, supported by two loved ones at his side, before a video tribute was played.
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?’.
“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, as did others on that fateful night.
Earlier, Ahmed Elgwahry told the hearing he was on the line to his younger sister, Mariem Elgwahry, 27, when she and their mother Eslah Elgwahry, 64, took refuge on the top floor.
After hearing his sister lose consciousness, he heard his mother’s final words before they gave way to the crackle of flames.
He said: “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.”
Similarly, the parents of Italian architect Gloria Trevisan shared the message their daughter had left them, during a touching video package played to the inquiry.
The 26-year-old died with her fiance Marco Gottardi who, it was heard, “held her in his arms until the last breath, to protect her”.
All three grieving families directly appealed to the inquiry chairman Sir Martin Moore-Bick to uncover the truth.
The inquiry also heard from the father of Isaac Paulos, five, who spoke of his terrible guilt at his son’s fate.
But he also expressed anger at the advice of the fire service to stay inside their 18th floor flat as the blaze intensified.
He said: “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.”
Tributes were also paid to Berkti Haftom, 29, who lived on the 18th floor with her 12-year-old son Biruk, who also died.
She was 10 weeks pregnant with her third child at the time of the fire.
Meanwhile, the daughter of 65-year-old Sakineh Afrasiabi, who lived on the 18th floor, said she felt “invisible” after losing “my anchor, my protector, my only true friend”.
Syrian refugee Mohammad al-Haj Ali, 23, became separated from his brother as they tried to escape the tower because he was trying to help others, his family said.
Revealing the last text she received, his girlfriend Amal said: “Just past 12 he messaged me saying ‘hey, are you sleeping? I’m home now’. That was the last time I heard from him.”
Hamid Kani, a 61-year-old who lived in the tower for 22 years, was described as a good-humoured chef whose works of satire saw him banned from returning to Iran.
Finally, Fathia Ahmed, 71, was remembered by her son as a “very loving person, very caring” with “excellent communication skills and a great sense of humour”.
The commemorations are being heard at the Millennium Gloucester Hotel in South Kensington, ahead of evidence sessions next week.
The last day of tributes will resume on Wednesday.