UK

Grenfell inquiry: Firefighter recalls mission to save girl

David Badillo
Image caption David Badillo from the London Fire Brigade has been giving evidence to the public inquiry

A firefighter has broken down in tears recalling a "personal rescue mission" to save a 12-year-old from the 20th floor of the Grenfell Tower.

David Badillo never found Jessica Urbano Ramirez and the schoolgirl died in the blaze.

Jessica had in fact fled to the top floor, but this message was not passed on to Mr Badillo, an inquiry heard.

Asked what he would have done had he been told Jessica was on the 23rd floor, he said: "I would have gone up".

Mr Badillo was among the first fire crew members to arrive at Grenfell Tower on 14 June.

A woman had stopped Mr Badillo telling him her sister was inside the tower, before giving him the keys to their flat.

Struggling to hold back tears, Mr Badillo told the inquiry: "She said that her sister was 12-years-old, called Jessica, and in the flat alone. The lady asked me if she could come up with me to get her."

Initially he went up to flat 176 alone without breathing equipment but could not get further than floor 15, where he was met by thick black smoke.

He told the inquiry he thought: "I'm in trouble here".

Mr Badillo was asked by Richard Millett QC: "Was it right to say you were on a personal rescue mission?"

"Yes" he replied.

"It's a little 12-year-old girl on her own and I just wanted to get her out."

Image copyright PA
Image caption The inquiry was shown a CCTV image of David Badillo entering a lift in Grenfell Tower on the night of the fire as he attempted to reach Jessica Urbano Ramirez

On the second attempt - now equipped with breathing apparatus and accompanied by a colleague - Mr Badillo reached floor 20 by stairs and found the flat where Jessica lived.

In his written statement, he described entering the smoke-logged rooms.

"I checked all of the typical hiding places - under the bed and in the cupboards, but did not find anyone," Mr Badillo wrote.

"We were shouting out and searching by stamping and sweeping to feel our way round, using our torches."

Satisfied no one was in there and having found the front door ajar, they decided that Jessica had got out .

However the inquiry heard that Jessica had been on the phone to the fire brigade's 999 service, after walking up three floors.

Mr Badillo said he did not know this.

The firefighter was asked if he had knocked on the door of flat 175 - the flat next to Jessica's - or shouted to alert those inside.

He replied that he had not.

"To the family of those people in flat 175, I was looking for another girl and I didn't know anyone was in there," he said, his voice breaking.

Four people died from flat 175 - Farah Hamdan, her husband Omar Belkadi and children Malak and Leena.

'Useless' radios

Mr Badillo also told the inquiry that during this sort of incident "you would expect heavy radio traffic".

However he said he could hear "nothing at all" from the handheld radios he and his colleagues carried.

In earlier evidence, Mr Badillo described the communication sets and radios as "useless… like something from the dark ages".

"The higher you go up the building the less reliable it is, to the point of nothing at all," he added.

In his written statement, Mr Badillo said he felt that "radio communications failed" on the night of the fire.

Mr Badillo's evidence concludes the sixth week of the inquiry, which continues on Monday when more firefighters will give evidence.

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