Grenfell tower inquiry: Father considered leaving six-year-old daughter to sleep ‘rather than waking her up to die in pain’

A Grenfell Tower resident considered leaving his six-year-old daughter to sleep “rather than waking her up to die in pain” after he discovered an inferno had taken hold of the block.

The father’s account of the events came after his wheelchair-bound neighbour told the probe she urged her children to save themselves and flee the highrise without her.

Richard Fletcher said he saw fire crews arriving outside the highrise shortly before 1am, but believed there was only a problem with one of the lifts, since he could not see any smoke or fire.

In a written statement, he said he went to sleep, but awoke minutes minutes later “not by the sound of a smoke alarm but by a popping sound”.

From his bedroom window, he saw “a long orange streak about 30 to 40 meters long” running down the side of the building.

He woke his wife, who opened the front door and as she did so “thick, black smoke rushed in”.

Mr Fletcher’s daughter was still asleep in a room next door, unaware of the danger.

“I believed that there was no way to get out and no point in trying to escape as it was hopeless,” Mr Fletcher said.

“I felt that the kindest thing would be to leave our daughter to continue sleeping, rather than waking her up to die in pain and suffering the terror of the fire.

He continued: “Momentarily I thought the best thing to do was to climb back into bed with our daughter with my wife and me on either side of our daughter to cuddle up with her and let the smoke and fire take us.”

But, seconds later, Mr Fletcher said he “seemed to shock myself back into fighting mode”.

“I thought ‘my daughter is only six years old and she has not seen enough of the world, he said. How unfair would it be for her to go now?’”

Mr Fletcher, who works in the transport industry and was on duty on the day of the 7 July London bombings, said his previous experience helped him stay calm.

He decided the stairs were their “only chance”, since he had only seen smoke, not fire, outside.

As the family prepared to leave their flat, he told his wife: “Whatever happens don’t let go of me. We get out together or we die together.”

They crossed the lobby, which was filled with thick smoke and reached the smoke-free stairwell.

They then “carefully” made their way down the stairs.

CCTV shows he left the tower with his daughter in his arms at 1.31am.

A month before the blaze, Mr Fletcher made a joke about how he would never follow the fire safety advice to stay inside his flat in the event of a fire, he told the probe.

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Earlier on Thursday, the inquiry heard how a wheelchair user who was trapped inside Grenfell Tower urged her children and their father to leave the highrise without her.

Mariko Toyoshima-Lewis, who lived on the third floor of the highrise, says she can only stand for “very short periods of time”.

The Grenfell resident said she woke her daughter, 9, and two sons aged 7 and 5 after their father, David Lewis, told her he thought there was a fire.

The mother was separated from Mr Lewis, but he had been staying in her flat to help look after one of their sons, who was unwell.

After hearing explosions that sounded like “fireworks” outside and seeing “flaming orange objects falling down past the window”,  Ms Toyoshima-Lewis called 999 and stayed on the line waiting for firefighters to arrive.

“I was worried because I knew that I would not be able to walk from flat to the stairs. I knew that I could not jump from the window,” she said in a written statement to the inquiry.

“I explained to the call handler that I would walk downstairs with the children, but that I could not because of my wheelchair. The call handler told us to stay in one room.”

Ms Toyoshima-Lewis was concerned the ceiling of her bedroom would fall in because the room felt hot.

“I was worried that a blast of heat then come through the flat and bum us all. I thought that if the children and David jumped out of the window from the living room, they would break their legs, but they might survive.

“I thought that I could break the window and throw myself out. So I positioned myself in the hallway by the middle bedroom, with the bedroom door closed, and waited to see if the ceiling looked like it was collapsing.

Ms Toyoshima-Lewis said she “could not trust the call handler” since “he was not giving me the correct information”.

“I didn’t understand why we had to stay inside,” she said. “I could see that the fire was getting worse. I was worried that we needed to do something.

“No one was coming to rescue us. I was telling David to go with the children.”

Ms Toyoshima-Lewis had previously told her children they must leave the building without her in the event of a fire. They should then tell an official that she was inside and could not walk.

“I said to my children that they knew their names, ages and flat number and that they knew my name, that I was Japanese and my phone number,” she said in her written statement.

“I repeated this information to them so that they would remember it. I told them that if they went downstairs they should grab hold of a fireman or policeman and not go with any strangers.

“My daughter became upset and asked how I was going to get out of the building. I told her that the firemen would rescue me and carry me downstairs.

“My daughter said that I might be too big for the firemen to carry me down the stairs.”

Around 45 minutes after calling 999, three firefighters arrived at her door.

“One of the firemen said that he would take my children. My daughter, clung to me and told him ‘No. I don’t want to leave my mum. She can’t walk.’

“And then-tried to explain to the fire officers ‘she can’t walk. She’s a slow coach.’”

The children and Mr Lewis left with the firefighters. “They closed the front door and left me there,” she said. “I honestly thought they were not coming back.”

Ms Toyoshima-Lewis wept as she told the probe into the disaster that as she waited she she prayed for her children’s futures. 

Grenfell Tower Inquiry: disabled woman recalls her experience within building during fire

“Then two firefighters came back, one man and one woman. I don’t know if it was the same firefighters who had taken David and the children,” she said.

“They looked at me and then one of them said something like ‘Oh god. We have to carry her down.’

Together, they dragged her out of the flat and down the stairwell, she said.

“As we went down the stairs I could hear screams from inside the building. I could smell burning,” she said.

When they made it outside, Toyoshima-Lewis said: “Big burning objects about one metre wide were falling down, we were very lucky not to get hit.”

The public inquiry into the Grenfell Tower disaster is hearing evidence from the survivors of the fire at Holborn Bars in central London.

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