‘I did not want to encourage people to jump’
GRENFELL FIREFIGHTER TELLS OF DIFFICULTIES IN COMMUNICATING TO PEOPLE TO GET OUT BUILDING
A FIRE manager decided not to beckon to residents at the windows of Grenfell Tower after the advice to “stay put” was changed because he feared it would be misconstrued as encouraging them to jump.
Dave O’Neill, a group manager for operational policy for the London Fire Brigade (LFB), learned that two people had ‘jumped’ from the highrise shortly after he arrived at 2.15am.
Mr O’Neill, whose role involved identifying safety hazards and briefing safety officers on the night, remembered having a discussion with the-then incident commander about the change in advice from “stay put” to “get out if you can”.
The officer told his superior this was “essential” because of the number of faces they could see at the building’s windows, the public inquiry into the blaze was told.
Asked what means he had to communicate the new advice to trapped residents, he said: “I didn’t, other than the loud hailer we had at our disposal on the walkway. That was being conducted by people within the building.
“I think at that point we had had two people actually faced with the most horrendous of decisions and took the decision to jump from the building.
“I was very mindful of waving arms and beckoning. I do recall considering that may have been misconstrued as asking people to jump. For that reason I discounted, if you like, physical communication. I am very clear about that because I did not want to encourage that.
“We went back to the loud hailer and really it was the responsibility of those working inside.”
Mr O’Neill said there was so much noise at the scene, including water from jets and falling debris, that the two loud hailers were “useless”.
Counsel to the inquiry into the Grenfell Tower fire Andrew Kinnier QC asked: “You got no impression from the actions of residents within the tower that they heard the advice?” He replied: “No, and I was really conscious about how scared people would be in that environment. “Having experienced two people jumping from the building, I was really conscious of not promoting that and I couldn’t have forgiven myself for encouraging that.”
In his written statement, Mr O’Neill described the “amazing sense of teamwork for a single purpose” on the night.
He said: “I hope no one feels any sense of guilt. They did everything possible and more, it was exceptional work. I have since found our equipment as high as the 22nd floor.
“It was an unprecedented amount of resources deployed, but I feel it was an impossible task to save everyone.
“I certainly felt that this should not be happening in the UK today.”
A total of 71 people died on June 14 last year, with a 72nd resident dying months after the fire.
The inquiry, being held at
They did everything possible and more, it was exceptional work Dave O’Neill, group manager at London Fire Brigade
Holborn Bars, central London, has heard its last day of firefighter evidence.
Survivors will now start giving their accounts of the night.-
Two people ‘jumped’ from Grenfell Tower on the night of June 14 2017, firefighter Dave O’Neill has been giving his account to the inquiry into the tragedy