Mother who escaped Grenfell Tower fire tells inquiry: ‘Guilt haunts me’

Mother who escaped Grenfell Tower fire tells inquiry: ‘Guilt haunts me’

Grenfell Tower

A mother who escaped the Grenfell Tower fire in England with her family said she is haunted by guilt about not doing more to raise the alarm.

Maria de Fatima Alves recalled crying as she watched people at the windows of the tower, “shouting and screaming, waving mops and t-shirts out of the window”.

Mrs Alves was one of the first people to discover the blaze after she saw smoke on the fourth floor when she was going up the tower in the lift just before 1am.

She immediately left via the stairs, while her husband Miguel went up to their 10th floor home to get their children, Tiago and Ines.

Mrs Alves asked a firefighter what her family should do, and he told her they should stay in their flat.

She tried to use the building’s intercom to relay the “stay-put” advice to her husband, but was not able to get through, and the trio made it out of the tower soon after.

The family relocated to a friend’s house at nearby Bramley House, which overlooked the west side of the tower, watching the flames from the balcony.

In her written statement to the inquiry, Mrs Alves said: “To see people screaming outside the windows and knowing we were in the same area but that we couldn’t do anything to save them was so traumatic.

“I tried to focus on my prayers. I still think about what I could’ve done more.

“This guilt haunts me.”

Mrs Alves is the second survivor of the blaze to give evidence to the public inquiry into the fire, and was supported at the hearing by her husband and two children.

Her statement continued: “I kept trying to think of something I could do to help but there wasn’t anything.

“I felt guilty that we were all watching from our safe house whilst there were still people suffering in the tower.”

Mrs Alves and her husband made several calls to residents still in the building, urging them to leave.

She called her “adopted son” Joao, who lived on their floor, telling him how he did not “need to panic” but to “come downstairs quickly”.

Her husband phoned his friend, Marcio Gomes, and warned him: “If you don’t leave now you are all going to die.”

Mr Gomes eventually made it out from the 21st floor with his heavily-pregnant wife Andreia and their two young girls, but their baby son, Logan, was stillborn.