A family’s Grenfell Tower ordeal has been described in painstaking detail by their lawyer – including their horrific 35-minute descent while breathing in the toxic fumes which killed the mother’s unborn son.
Marcio Gomes and his wife Andreia Perestrelo were expecting their third child on August 21 2017, but Logan Gomes was stillborn in hospital following the blaze in June.
The couple lived with their two daughters in the North Kensington tower for 10 years, and all four narrowly escaped the blaze along with their neighbour, Helen Gebremeskel, and her daughter.
A trigger warning was given before the family’s experience was summarised by Sam Stein QC at the Grenfell Tower Inquiry on Tuesday.
Mr Stein described the family as “lively”, with a mixture of “vibrant characters” who had a “very strong and happy life” before the fire.
He said: “The family home had been made ready with loving excitement for the newest member of the family to join them very shortly.
“His room had been decorated, his Moses basket was in place and toys were ready for him.”
On the night of the fire, Ms Perestrelo was seven months pregnant and had just finished her last day at work before starting maternity leave.
The family had been out for a meal and arrived back at their home, flat 183, just after 10pm, Mr Stein said.
The smoke is the biggest thing that I remember, purely because of the continuous gagging reflex all the way down the stairwell
Marcio Gomes, Grenfell Tower resident
At around 1.30am, they were awoken by Ms Gebremeskel with her daughter, who warned them of the fire but said they had been told by emergency services to stay put.
Mr Stein said that by this time, the fire had almost reached their floor, “spreading over 19 storeys on the outside of the building in approximately 18 minutes”.
The two families sheltered in flat 183 and Mr Gomes called the emergency services several times over the next hour – until 3.09am when the advice changed from “stay put”, to run.
Mr Gomes had soaked towels in the bathtub and each member of his family held one to their face as they began the descent through thick smoke that smelled “chemical”.
On the stairs, I was stepping over people and there were people that were letting out sounds, like trying to scream maybe
Andreia Perestrelo, Grenfell Tower resident
In a statement read by Mr Stein, he said: “The smoke is the biggest thing that I remember, purely because of the continuous gagging reflex all the way down the stairwell.”
Ms Perestrelo said in her statement it had been “like a horror film” and the smoke “burned your nostrils and throat”.
“It was like a hand that goes into your nose and mouth and you can’t breathe, and I said, ‘No, I can’t go’,” she said.
The families were forced to step on the bodies of their neighbours as they descended 21 floors.
“On the stairs, I was stepping over people and there were people that were letting out sounds, like trying to scream maybe,” Ms Perestrelo said.
“Someone grabbed my foot. I don’t know if it was the same person that said, ‘Help’, but I couldn’t stop.”
During the descent, the group became separated and Mr Gomes relayed his panic to emergency services during a call which started at 3.25am and finished as he left the building – 34 minutes and 55 seconds later.
Mr Stein said: “This call continued throughout the horrific and terrifying descent of the families from the 21st floor through the thick, poisonous smoke.
“It records the moment when Marcio lost his children and wife and you can hear him screaming in desperation as he realised that he may have lost them on the way down and tries to go back up to save them.”
Mr Gomes previously told the inquiry he feared the bodies he tripped over could have belonged to his wife or daughters.
Firefighters intercepted Ms Gebremeskel, Ms Perestrelo, and one of her daughters around the seventh floor and helped them down, the inquiry heard, and the families were reunited.
Ms Perestrelo was taken to hospital at around 4.10am and put in a coma for four days.
A hospital report said the carbon monoxide levels in her blood were at 18% – much higher than the safe level of 2.3%.
Her son still had a heartbeat at the time, but it later slowed, before it ceased.
Mr Gomes previously told the inquiry of the “deepest sadness and indescribable pain” he felt when he held his stillborn son.
He said: “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.”
The inquiry, held in Bishop’s Bridge Road in central London, continues with more presentations from lawyers on behalf of survivors and bereaved families in the coming days.