Grenfell inquiry: Father thought of letting daughter die in sleep

Richard Fletcher giving evidence to the Grenfell Tower Inquiry

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Grenfell Tower Inquiry

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Richard Fletcher said the smoke in the hallway was “not like in the movies – it was pitch black”

A father trapped in Grenfell Tower considered letting his young daughter die in her sleep to spare her seeing the terror of the fire.

Richard Fletcher said he thought the “best thing to do” might be cuddling up with her and his wife and “let the smoke and fire take us”.

But he sprang “back into fighting mode” after being filled with a determination to escape, Mr Fletcher said.

The family of three, who lived on the 16th floor, later fled together.

On Thursday, Mr Fletcher gave evidence to the inquiry into the Grenfell Tower disaster – which took place on 14 June last year and killed 72 people. The inquiry is now in its 57th day.

Mr Fletcher, who was 42 at the time of the blaze, said he went to sleep at around 01:00 BST on the night of the fire. Earlier he had seen fire engines arriving at the tower but believed there was a problem with one of the lifts.

But minutes later he woke up and saw an “orange streak” of fire along the whole length of the building. He woke his wife but his six-year-old daughter continued to sleep as the fire raged.

“Momentarily, I thought the best thing to do was to climb back into bed with our daughter, with my wife and me on either side of our daughter, to cuddle up with her and let the smoke and fire take us,” said Mr Fletcher.

“By letting her sleep it would mean that the last moments of her life would not involve her screaming in terror.

“I thought it was better and kinder that we let her continue to sleep and die quietly. I did not want her to wake and be in pain, and for her last minutes to be moments of terror.”

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Getty Images

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Mr Fletcher said he opened his blinds and saw fire along the side of the building to the ground

But he said he changed his mind around 10 seconds later. “I thought, ‘my daughter is only six years old and she has not seen enough of the world. How unfair would it be for her to go now?'”

“It pains me even now to think that I was so desperate and felt the situation was so hopeless that such thoughts had crossed my mind.”

‘Don’t let go’

Mr Fletcher, who works in the transport industry, said his previous experiences – including being at work on the day of the 7 July London bombings – meant he was able to be calm and logical.

The family escaped through the pitch black lobby, which was filled with dense smoke, and the stairwell, where the air was mostly clear.

Mr Fletcher recalled telling his wife: “Whatever happens don’t let go of me. We get out together or we die together.”

The chairman of the inquiry, Sir Martin Moore-Bick, praised Mr Fletcher for his “great coolness of judgment to get you and your family out of your building”, adding: “I am very glad you did escape.”

The inquiry was adjourned until Monday.

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