Firefighter tells of saving ‘wrong resident’ in Grenfell Tower
Richard Hippel and a colleague said they found a man on the 16th floor and helped him to safety, but later learned another man was trapped.
A firefighter has spoken of the moment he believed he had saved a father trapped on the 16th floor of Grenfell Tower, only to later discover he had helped another resident.
Richard Hippel, who has been at Kensington fire station for 25 years, said he and another crew member ventured up to the 16th floor after being told a man was trapped.
They discovered the lobby door was being held open by a man who was crouched down and that “visibility was zero”.
Believing the man was the source of the report about the trapped person, Mr Hippel told him to go down the stairs before searching the floor.
They then stumbled across another man – resident Edward Daffarn – who was “coughing but conscious”. He was assisted to the stairwell where he was able to escape unaided.
Mr Hippel said he had initially not gone up thinking it was a rescue mission, but his priorities changed when he saw the conditions.
He thought it was likely Mr Daffarn was the man they had been tasked with helping, but continued to search the floor, knocking on doors and calling out.
After hearing no responses, and with dwindling air supplies, they decided to head back down to safety.
He said in a written statement to the inquiry: “We completed the right hand wall search stopping each time we got to a door and hitting and kicking it and shouting out.
“We received no reply at any door and none of the other doors were open, so after waiting approximately 20 seconds at each door we moved on.
“As I would have predicted, given the length of time we had been under air and the amount of work we had done, we were both low on air, and given we still had to get back down 16 floors and we believed we had successfully helped the male who was ‘trapped’ on the 16th floor, we decided to go back to the bridgehead.”
Unknown to them, the man they had been called to assist was bed-bound Joseph Daniels.
The 69-year-old was one of 72 people to die following the blaze on June 14 last year.
The full information didn’t get through... as we just knew someone was on the 16th floor and trapped but not that they were in a flat and were bed-bound Richard Hippel
Paying tribute to Mr Daniels at the beginning of the inquiry, his son Samuel said: “He stood no chance of getting out and this should never have happened.”
They learned the truth when Mr Daffarn asked to meet firefighters in early November.
Mr Daffarn was sitting in the hearing room in Holborn Bars, central London, as Mr Hippel gave his evidence.
Mr Hippel continued the statement: “He explained that he had come out of his flat, become disoriented in the thick smoke and had collapsed only a few seconds before CM (crew manager) Stern and I just happened to find him. He was incredibly lucky.
“Unfortunately, the man we had actually come up to find was the father of the young man, Sam.
“Mr Daffarn told me that Sam lived in a flat near his on the 16th floor with his father Joe, who was bed-bound, and that Sam had come down to ask for help getting his dad out.
“The full information didn’t get through to CM Stern and myself as we just knew someone was on the 16th floor and trapped but not that they were in a flat and were bed-bound.”