Grenfell inquiry: Firefighter stopped man from ‘deadly’ climb

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    Thomas Abell

    A firefighter has told how he persuaded a man not to attempt an “impossible” climb down the outside of Grenfell Tower to escape the fire.

    Thomas Abell noticed a resident in an upper level flat who had tied bed-sheets together which he was going to use to rappel down the building.

    He shouted to the man until he was satisfied he was not going to exit via the window, an inquiry heard.

    Mr Abell has since met the man, Oluwaseun Talabi, who ran to safety.

    Mr Abell said climbing down the building would have been “an impossible and deadly task”.

    “I was concerned for this male’s safety, and I also did not want other residents to follow this male’s example of trying to rappel his way down the side of the building,” he wrote in a statement published at the public inquiry.

    “At one point this male was on the window sill of his apartment.

    “I shouted as loudly as I could, I instructed him to stay where he was and not to try and exit the building via the window.”

    Mr Talabi previously told the BBC how he was preparing to climb down from the 14th floor on the makeshift rope of tied-together bed-sheets, with his four-year-old daughter on his back.

    He later ran to safety through the stairwell.

    Media playback is unsupported on your device

    Media captionOluwaseun Talabi describes his escape in a BBC interview two weeks after the fire

    Mr Abell also described how he helped rescue two men from a fifth-floor window using a ladder, which members of the public helped carry.

    In his statement, he wrote how he “coached” one of the men on to the ladder.

    He said: “Understandably this took a bit of time as it was a daunting experience for the male, but slowly he managed to climb on the ladder and descended.”

    ‘My legs felt like jelly’

    Mr Abell was among the first fire crew members to arrive at Grenfell Tower on 14 June 2017.

    He initially went inside the building to a fifth-floor flat – which was above the one where the fire started.

    He described how he had been confronted with “thick, black smoke” and had “zero” visibility as he entered the flat at about 01:28.

    He told the public inquiry: “In that situation I would maybe expect there to be a bit of smoke in there… but the thick, black smoke that came out to floor level would indicate this is a fully involved fire in this flat, which is unusual.”

    He added: “That was significant to me because my job then was try to nip this fire in the bud and put the fire in this compartment out before it spread to the sixth floor.”

    Mr Abell said he did not pass the information back to the incident commander as he did not have radio communication in his breathing apparatus.

    He was left alone in the flat for a number of minutes while his buddy tried to sort out a snag in the hose.

    He was asked by Richard Millett QC if he alerted anyone else on the floor about the fire.

    “I was in a bad way,” he replied.

    “My legs felt like jelly due to fatigue… I dragged my way out as I thought I might not get out of there.”

    The public inquiry into the tower block fire in west London, which caused 72 deaths, is currently examining what happened when the blaze broke out.

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