A firefighter has described the “freaky” moment he found three children apparently unharmed on an upper floor of Grenfell Tower, hours after the fire started.
Raoul Codd, a crew manager of a fire and rescue unit (FRU), told the inquiry into the disaster that he made the surprise discovery on the heavily smoke-filled stairwell at the 12th floor.
He said in a written statement that the eldest child, a girl aged around 13, “cuddled” him out of relief, while the youngest, a boy of around six years, later helped lead him outside.
The rescuer was wearing extended-duration breathing apparatus, equipment which meant he had been tasked with reaching the 22nd floor, where many residents were trapped.
Instead, he lost his partner as he ascended the stairwell and was faced with a dilemma when he found the children, also including a girl aged around 10, many floors below his destination.
His written statement, published on Monday, said: “I didn’t hear any alarms when I went in, there was a deadly silence.
“All I could smell was burning, I didn’t smell gas it was just burning.
“As I (went) up the stairs I got to the landing, I was just about to turn the turn to the next flight of stairs when these three kids appeared…the eldest one just cuddled me, I think out of relief.
“It was really weird, they had no signs of smoke inhalation and they weren’t coughing. It was freaky.”
As he paused to speak to the children, he heard loud banging on flat doors nearby, but decided to take them down instead of investigating, the inquiry heard.
The children were forced to pass a dead body on a lower floor during the descent.
They eventually reached the fourth floor, but the operational hub, or bridgehead, had moved since Mr Codd went upstairs.
His statement said: “I literally went, ‘Where is everyone? They were here’.
“Then the youngest kid turned around and said ‘we can get out round here’ which was quite good, the rescuer is now being rescued so I said ‘follow him’.
“We got to the second floor and I can’t remember who, or if anyone took the kids. That was the last time I saw them.”
According to data from the London Fire Brigade, Mr Codd had gone into the building at 3.05am, more than two hours after the fire had started, and emerged at 3.21am.
Earlier on Monday, a firefighter who went up burning Grenfell Tower three times was described as “very impressive” by inquiry chairman Sir Martin Moore-Bick.
Ben Gallagher, a crew manager from Paddington, was part of a team that carried out the daring rescue of a mother and her young daughter from the ninth floor.
He had rushed to the foot of the tower to get a breathing apparatus for the pair so they could breathe as they were helped down the stairs, an episode previously recounted to the Grenfell Tower inquiry by his colleague Harry Bettinson.
The inquiry heard that Mr Gallagher subsequently made two further forays into the building in an effort to rescue more people.
Sir Martin asked him at the conclusion of his evidence at Holborn Bars: “You did three deployments up the towers, which is a bit unusual, isn’t it?”
Mr Gallagher agreed and was told by the retired judge: “That is very impressive.”