NEWS
16/10/2018 14:28 BST | Updated 16/10/2018 15:28 BST

Grenfell Inquiry: Survivor Criticises Firefighter After Brother Was 'Accidentally Left Behind In Blaze'

Inquiry hears 23-year-old died after jumping from window to escape.

Evening Standard

A Syrian refugee has told the Grenfell Tower inquiry of the moment he left his brother inside the burning building.

Omar Alhaj Ali was evacuated from flat 113 on the 14th floor by firefighters – but his sibling Mohammad was accidentally left behind.

The 23-year-old eventually died after jumping from the window of the flat in a bid to escape the blaze.

Giving evidence at the inquiry today, Ali said he thought Mohammad was behind him as he headed towards the door with neighbour Oluwaseun Talabi.

He told the hearing at Holborn Bars: “I remember that he was behind me, I’m not sure where exactly.

“I remember following Olu to check out what was happening outside and he was behind me somewhere.

“He was very close, we were next to each other, I just walked to look, so maybe he waited for me to check, I’m not sure, but I did.” 

Ali disputed the account given by rescuer Peter Herrera, who claimed he was told by the resident that no-one was left in the flat.

Asked about the firefighter’s evidence, Ali said: “No, that didn’t happen, because at that time I knew that everyone was behind me, not everyone was, the rest.

“In the hallway, I could not see or breathe to even have a conversation.

“I couldn’t see anyone, just a shape.”

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Inquiry chairman Sir Martin Moore-Bick asked him if he said anything to a firefighter, to which he replied: “Nothing at all, I did not have any conversation, I remember myself being pulled out, that’s all I remember, nothing else – I didn’t have any conversation.”

CCTV stills of Ali arriving at the lobby area of Grenfell Tower were shown to the inquiry.

He could be seen with his shirt hanging open and a white undershirt apparently blackened by smoke. He left the block 2.44am.

Footage captured the moment he told firefighters at the foot of the tower that his brother might still be trapped upstairs.

“I was telling him maybe he is still in the flat, because he’s not with me,” Ali told the inquiry.

“I was pointing to where I came from.”

A firefighter listened to what he was saying and then wrote the flat number he had come from on his hand – 113.

Ali suggested the firefighter dismissed his concerns, reporting him saying: “Maybe he’s panicked.”

The survivor also dismissed a further detail from Herrera’s account, which described how he had told the firefighter he was “mistaken” to say no-one was left in the flat.

Herrera claimed the conversation happened near the foot of the tower, when Ali was on the phone to his brother.

Ali said: “That didn’t happened… I didn’t say I was mistaken.”

Evening Standard

Ali finished his evidence by describing the emotional toll Herrera’s account had taken on him.

He said: “I just would like to say that I respect the firefighters, some of them, who tried to rescue the people and tried their best.

“But I don’t understand why, for example, some of the firefighters like Peter Herrera (are) putting words into my mouth which I didn’t say, by saying I said no-one else was in the flat.

“I didn’t search the flat, I didn’t check if Mohammad left or not, so why should I say that?

“He is my brother, so it’s very hard to hear someone blaming you for the death of your best friend and neighbours. He’s my brother, how can I say that about him?

“He’s just trying to blame me for not searching the flat by himself and I’m sure that he didn’t search the flat and if he did, he would see everyone else, I’m sure he didn’t go inside the bedroom or living room.

“The death of everyone and my brother really changed my life completely.”

The inquiry continues.