‘I did not want to en­cour­age peo­ple to jump’

GREN­FELL FIRE­FIGHTER TELLS OF DIF­FI­CUL­TIES IN COM­MU­NI­CAT­ING TO PEO­PLE TO GET OUT BUILD­ING

Ruislip & Eastcote & Northwood Gazette - - News - By JEMMA CREW Press As­so­ci­a­tion Re­porter

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.-

PHO­TOS: JONATHAN BRADY

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

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