The father of the youngest victim of the Grenfell Tower fire can be heard pleading with his daughters to “keep going” in a distressing 999 call recorded during the family’s escape.
Marcio Gomes and his wife Andreia Perestrelo were expecting a son in August 2017, but Logan Gomes was stillborn in hospital following the blaze in June of that year.
The audio of a call made to the emergency services as the couple and their two daughters made their way down the stairs from flat 183 on the 21st floor was played at the public inquiry.
Counsel to the inquiry Richard Millett QC issued warnings before the audio was played so that people could leave the room if they wanted to. He warned that in parts, the call, which covers the family’s descent from their floor, is “extremely distressing” to listen to.
I was panicking at that point because on the way down on the stairwell we had to go over bodies. I stepped on some. I tripped… I tripped up on some
Mr Gomes can be heard saying: “Keep going. Keep going. Keep going.”
He told the inquiry: “I was trying to shout and breathe at the same time.”
The 999 operator can be heard telling Mr Gomes: “Don’t give up.”
At one point, Mr Gomes realises his girls are behind him when they were initially in front.
He can be heard shouting: “Girls, come on, follow my voice.”
Mr Gomes had to pause a few times during the hearing and appeared visibly upset at certain points. He recalled turning around and starting to make his way back up to find his daughters. The operator can be heard on the call saying: “You’re doing so, so well. So well.”
She can also be heard saying: “You need to go back and get them as a dad.”
Mr Gomes said he recalls stepping on bodies and fearing they were his wife or daughter.
“I was panicking at that point because on the way down on the stairwell we had to go over bodies.
“I stepped on some. I tripped… I tripped up on some,” he said.
“So I started thinking that… that the bodies that I stepped over was my wife and my daughter,” he told the inquiry. “So that’s why I kept shouting for my wife and wanted to go back up the stairs and find them. I didn’t know where they were.”
Mr Gomes, his wife, and their two daughters, made it out of the tower, but he said the family was “devastated” by the events of that day. He said his children “suffered an event of such magnitude” that its impact on them “will probably scar them for the rest of their lives”. His wife Andreia was seven months pregnant at the time of the fire and baby Logan was due on August 21 2017.
In a written statement to the inquiry, Mr Gomes said: “All of our family and friends were so pleased that Andreia was pregnant and we were all looking forward to Logan being born.
“We had prepared the nursery room for him in our home in anticipation of his birth.
“It was with the deepest sadness and indescribable pain that I was told by the staff at Kings College Hospital that our unborn son had died as a result of the effects of the smoke and toxic fumes from the fire.
We buried our baby son on 19 July 2017 in a small white coffin. I cannot start to explain the grief we all felt
“Logan was stillborn in Kings College Hospital whilst Andreia was still in an induced coma after the fire.
“He was delivered by caesarean section. I was there to witness his stillbirth.
I held him in my arms. I cannot even start to describe how crushingly sad I felt at the loss of our baby boy. “When Andreia awoke from her coma the first thing she asked me was:
‘How is the baby?’
“It was devastating to have to tell her that he was gone. She had never got to hold him in her arms. It was a terrible time.”
In a written statement to the inquiry from Ms Perestrelo, dated May 20 2018, said she was now pregnant again and expecting a girl. In her statement, Ms Perestrelo, who was in hospital for 15 days, said: “Escaping the Grenfell Tower fire was the worst experience of my entire life.
“I thought that we were all going to die and that is the worst feeling to have had to have experienced.”
She said she had “several worries and concerns” about fire safety, primarily about fire exits.
“We buried our baby son on 19 July 2017 in a small white coffin. I cannot start to explain the grief we all felt.
“I continue to suffer from psychological injuries. “I am at present trying to manage this myself as I want to be there for my children. I do not want to be stressed, especially as I am now pregnant again,” she said.
I believed that help was coming right to the very point the fire entered my flat, as I had no reason to believe that the information from the emergency services would ever be misleading or inaccurate
Mr Gomes said he wishes that the phone operators had been honest and more knowledgeable about the situation from the first phone call. He said had he known that no help was coming, he would have handled the situation differently. Mr Gomes pointed out his wife is asthmatic.
“I was therefore waiting for firefighters to come up to us with extra breathing apparatus. The information given to me by the 999 operator, by those on the ground, was misleading.
“I believed that help was coming right to the very point the fire entered my flat, as I had no reason to believe that the information from the emergency services would ever be misleading or inaccurate,” he said.
At the conclusion of his evidence, Mr Gomes described NHS staff as “amazing” and thanked the firefighters.
“But mistakes were made,” he said, adding:
“You can’t change the past but you can influence the future.”
Mr Gomes said:
“I beg you to make those decisions and influence those.”
He added: “I truly believe that a lot more lives would have been saved if things were done quicker.”
A total of 72 people died as a result of the blaze in the west London tower block on June 14 last year.
The public inquiry is in its first phase at Holborn Bars in central London and is hearing evidence from survivors of the fire and those who lost loved ones.