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Firefighter weeps as Grenfell inquiry shown images of arrival at blaze flat

Charles Batterbee was one of two officers tasked with extinguishing a fire in the kitchen of the flat where the tower block disaster began.

Charles Batterbee, the first firefighter to enter flat 16 (Grenfell Tower Inquiry/PA)
Charles Batterbee, the first firefighter to enter flat 16 (Grenfell Tower Inquiry/PA)

One of the first firefighters to enter the Grenfell Tower inferno broke down in tears as footage of his arrival at the flat of origin was played to an inquiry.

Charles Batterbee, a crew manager at North Kensington fire station, was one of two officers tasked with extinguishing a kitchen fire on the fourth floor of the block.

Thermal imaging footage taken as the pair approached Flat 16 at 1.07am on June 14 2017 was played on screen at the inquiry into the disaster.

Mr Batterbee, who joined the London Fire Brigade in November 2010, was giving evidence on Thursday and became visibly overcome with emotion.

CCTV of the first firefighters entering the tower (Grenfell Inquiry/PA)

He began breathing heavily when his colleague, Daniel Brown, was shown in the footage.

Inquiry chairman Sir Martin Moore-Bick asked: “Are you OK to watch this?”

Mr Batterbee replied: “Can I have a break?”

“Yes, of course you can,” replied Sir Martin.

The firefighter was then led from the room by an usher, wiping his eyes as he walked.

He is the second firefighter to become distressed while recounting the night of the blaze at the hearing.

On Tuesday, Michael Dowden, the watch manager who was in charge of the operational response for the first hour of the blaze, wept after seeing footage of the burning tower.

Witnesses have been offered breaks every 30 minutes in recognition of the emotional toll their evidence could take.

In a written statement, published by the inquiry on Thursday, Mr Batterbee described the night of the fire as “hell” and said there were “no words to describe how powerless I felt” when he was on the phone to a trapped resident.

After extinguishing the initial flat fire – which spread through a window on to the flammable cladding outside – he spent hours at the scene.

Seventy-two people died as a result of the blaze.

Mr Batterbee wrote: “In relation to injuries I suffered, I was dazed from the debris landing on my shield. I may have jarred my back in that event as well.

“Other than that, I suffered from heat exhaustion and minor smoke inhalation, which led to a cough for a few months afterwards.

“This incident has been life-changing and potentially career-changing in a way I can never really describe.”

“I don’t really think that there are any words to really capture this horrific event. This was the worst thing that I have ever experienced and witnessed.”

Mr Batterbee is one of two firefighters due to give evidence on Thursday.

Press Association


From Belfast Telegraph