Rosemary Oyewole, who lived with her partner and four-year-old child in flat 113 on the 14th floor, said she lost faith that firefighters would rescue them and realised taking drastic action might be the best chance of getting out of the building alive.
Her partner Seun tied bedsheets together and flung them out of the window with the intention of shimmying down to the ground – a plan that at first seemed incomprehensible as he tested it with his weight.
In her closing comments, the teacher criticised the fire service, saying it was a “slap in the face” for anyone at the scene to suggest they would not change their actions from that night.
Witnesses, including firefighters and commanders, previously told the inquiry that they did all they could, but the fire had spread beyond their control.
When the blaze was raging, Oyewole had been sheltering in her flat with five neighbours, Syrian brothers Omar and Mohammad Alhajali, Zainab Deen and her young son Jeremiah, and Denis Murphy, when her partner hung the tethered bedsheets out of the window.
She told the inquest on Monday: “Everyone was like ‘don’t do it’, it was Omar, Mohammad and myself that would have shouted.
“I kept saying ‘no Seun, don’t’, because I had no, absolutely no, intention of going through the window.”
Oyewole told the hearing the knotted sheets went “quite far down”, but they “definitely” did not get near to the ground floor.
But soon afterwards, despite her earlier reservations, she realised they might have to escape through the window after all.
Asked what had changed, she said: “I would say it was a mixture of wanting to prepare ourselves and the time was just going.
“It just felt like we had gone to the window, we had screamed and shouted and the firefighters downstairs weren’t even looking up at us. There were loads of them downstairs.
“In my head, I just lost hope at that point.
“There were eight of us in there – (the plan) was a mixture of the time we had been locked in that room and I started thinking ‘I need to start taking other steps’.”
Oyewole also disputed the evidence of firefighter Peter Herrera, who claimed he had been told by Omar Alhajali that no-one was left in the flat.
Four residents, including Omar’s brother Mohammad, were accidentally left behind in the property. All of them died.
The mother-of-one told the inquiry that no firefighters had entered the flat – as Herrera had claimed – and she heard no words exchanged between any of them and other residents.
She said: “My recollection is the door flying open and I saw a firefighter standing back, firefighters standing by the front door and I heard shouting.
“I don’t recall a firefighter entering into the bedroom.”
Oyewole said she thought her daughter had died when they finally emerged from the building.
“I thought my daughter was dead,” she said.
“Because if I had taken in that smoke to my body, as big as I am and as little as she is, if she had consumed the same amount of smoke I’d consumed… hearing her on the stairs, on her dad’s back behind me, I could hear her taking what I felt like were her last breaths on the stairs.
“When we came out she was taken away. She was in a bad way.”
In her closing remarks, the survivor told the hearing: “I would like to say that I personally would like to thank the fireman that came to the door – whoever it was that said ‘get out, go’ – I would like to thank him, I am grateful for him coming back and doing that.
“However, my recollection of a lot of the other statements, that’s not how I remember it happening.
“I would also like to say that for anyone to say they do not regret what happened or would not change anything about what happened on that night – I know for a fact I wasn’t to blame, but I would definitely change certain things about that night if I could.
“I think it’s quite a slap in the face for anyone to say they wouldn’t change anything about what happened that night or they have no regrets about what happened that night.
“We lost beautiful, beautiful, beautiful people that night – innocent children, everyone that passed away that night was innocent and nobody deserved that – and if events had played out different then I might not be sitting here myself.”
She continued: “The firemen that came back that night – on many occasions people came back – had many chances to see how many people were brought into our flat.
“People had the chance to see the state of the people that were brought into our flats and for there not to be any precautions taken into place and the right equipment to come and get people out of our flat, I think if they did have the correct equipment I personally think that the people that passed away in our flat possibly wouldn’t have passed away.”
The inquiry continues.