Monday 20 January 2020

Grenfell Tower inquiry hears how trainee firefighter 'carried girl down nine floors to safety'

Grenfell
Grenfell

Jemma Crew

A firefighter still on probation at the time of the Grenfell Tower fire spoke of how he strapped an oxygen mask to a little girl and carried her down nine floors to safety.

Harry Bettinson waited inside a ninth floor flat with a mother and daughter while colleagues went to fetch extra breathing equipment, as conditions in the lobby were too treacherous to leave without.

Deputy assistant commissioner Adrian Fenton said he would not expect crews on the ground to be looking out for the possibility that flames would take hold from top to bottom of the block, calling the incident
Deputy assistant commissioner Adrian Fenton said he would not expect crews on the ground to be looking out for the possibility that flames would take hold from top to bottom of the block, calling the incident "unprecedented". (Natalie Oxford/PA)

As he waited he could see what looked like "fireballs and flaming arrows" raining down outside, and became aware they were "running out of time".

Around 20 minutes later his colleagues returned.

He then fitted a face mask on the little girl, linked it up to his oxygen supply, and hugged her tightly to his chest as he descended the narrow stairwell.

In a written statement to the inquiry, Mr Bettinson said: "We put one of the new sets on the mum so she was wearing it on her back.

"Then got a spare mask set out and I hooked this up to my spare hose so the little girl would be breathing my air.

"She didn't fuss once, even when the mask was put over her.

"I was really taken by how calm they both were throughout."

The firefighter and his colleagues left the flat and guided the pair through the thick smoke down the "pure black" stairwell.

He estimated the child was four or five years old.

Mr Bettinson said they were trying to protect the mother from firefighters wearing extended breathing equipment in case they barged her as they went in the opposite direction.

He continued: "I was also having to be as careful as I was carrying the little girl, I was holding her tight to my chest. She never once made a fuss.

"At one point I grew concerned as I didn't know if she was breathing she was so still and quiet.

"I shouted at her to open her eyes and she did so I knew she was still OK."

After making it outside safely, Mr Bettinson began helping to bring casualties out of the building, estimating he saw more than a dozen bodies that night.

The Grenfell fire was only the second high-rise blaze he had attended, he said.

Thanking Mr Bettinson after his evidence, inquiry chairman Sir Martin Moore-Bick said: "If I may say so, I think you played a very important part in the fire brigade's response and did extraordinarily well."

Read more here:

Grenfell firefighters 'would not have foreseen risk of external fire spread' - inquiry hears 

Grenfell Tower: Photos where fire personnel scrawled details of rescue mission on walls shown to inquiry

Firefighters feared for their lives as they tackled Grenfell Tower blaze 

PA Media

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