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LONDON FIRE JOURNAL
`I AM ANGRY'
LONDON FIRE JOURNAL
on the 16
July 2018 at 17:49
- Posted in
Grenfell Tower disaster, June 14, 2017 - 72 dead, 70 injured, 223 escaped
David Badillo, front, and watch manager Michael Dowden at Grenfell Tower
Daily Telegraph - June 29, 2018
With the plea of a young girlâ€™s sister ringing in his ears a firefighter at Grenfell Tower undertook a desperate â€œpersonal missionâ€ to rescue a 12-year-old from the flames.
David Badillo effectively ignored London Fire Brigade instructions to residents of the tower to stay in their homes by going up to the 20th floor to try and find Jessica Urbano Ramirez and bring her down to safety.
But to this day he remains haunted by his failure to find the young girl, who had fled her flat and climbed to the 23rd floor, where she later died.
Recalling how he was unable to save Jessica, Mr Badillo broke down on Friday as he gave evidence at the public inquiry into the disaster, which claimed 72 lives in June last year.
He had set out to find the Jessica after bumping into her sister on the ground floor of Grenfell Tower, as the fire began to take hold above them.
Mr Badillo, part of the North Kensington crew which was first to arrive at the scene, said in his written statement: "She said that her sister was 12 years old and called Jessica and that she was in the flat alone. She looked very distressed - panicked and anxious.
"I told her not to worry and that I would go and get Jessica on my own as I didn't want to endanger her."
Asked by Richard Millett QC, the lead counsel to the inquiry, why he felt it was necessary to rescue her, given the stay-put policy , Mr Badillo said: "She was on her own and there is obviously a fire in the tower."
Pressed on the policy, he continued: "I didn't think about that, no, I just wanted to go up - it was a young, 12-year-old girl on her own, I just wanted to go and get her out."
Residents and fire safety experts have criticised the decision by London Fire Brigade commanders not to abandon the stay put policy until 2.47am , more than an hour after it had become obvious the fire had spread out of control.
After making his promise to Jessicaâ€™s sister, and taking the keys to their flat, Mr Badillo decided to break "normal procedure" and head above the floor where the fire had broken out.
He said: "I just wanted to go and get the little girl out of the flat, as she was alone. I risk assessed the situation and did not think that I was in danger.
"I didn't tell anyone what I was doing as there was so much going on. I also thought that I would be told no, but I was worried for the girl's safety"
The 20-year LFB veteran took the lift to the 20th floor without breathing apparatus, but was swamped with "thick, black smoke" when it stopped on floor 15.
He groped his way to the stairwell and headed outside, where he realised the blaze was looking more dangerous.
Enlisting the help of crew manager Chris Secrett and Chris Dorgu he went back up in the lift, which this time stopped at the eighth floor, forcing the trio to battle on foot through smoke filled corridors to the 20th.
Here they found the door to flat 176 ajar and Jessica nowhere to be seen.
He wrote: "I checked all of the typical hiding places, under the bed and in the cupboards, but did not find anyone. We were shouting out and searching by stamping and sweeping to feel our way round, using our torches.
"I felt that with the front door being found ajar and us searching the rooms twice that Jessica must have gotten out."
Mr Badillo - who said the radios fitted to the firefightersâ€™ breathing apparatus suffered from poor reception and hampered communications - compared the unfolding horror to a "disaster movie", with material "exploding overhead" and "fireballs coming down all over the place".
He said: "I could clearly see people, still inside, at their windows, waving for help whilst holding their phones which were lit up. I looked to where we had just been on the 20th floor and it was glowing orange - it was a raging inferno and the fire was up to the 23rd floor. I knew in my heart of hearts that not everyone was going to make it out."
Mr Badillo added: "It has deeply affected me and it is never far from my thoughts. I am angry that this fire happened and feel that there are many factors that made things worse."
On hearing for the first time that 999 operators had spoken to Jessica and knew she was on the 23rd floor - not the 20th - Mr Badillo began to sob in the witness box.
"I would have gone up,â€ he said.
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