A young woman was killed in the Grenfell Tower fire just hours before she was due to attend an interview for her “dream job”, an inquiry has heard.
Mariem Elgwahry, 27, was described as a family-focused professional who never backed down from a challenge.
Her brother Ahmed recalled how she had once undertaken a Tough Mudder endurance event and suffered an asthma attack – but finished the course after receiving treatment.
The pair had lost their father at a young age, but Mariem had taken over the role of grandfather to Ahmed’s son, always giving him a Kinder Surprise chocolate, like her father did to her.
Ahmed said: “She worked hard in her career and it was paying off – on June 15 she was due to have an interview for her dream job with a reputable brand company.”
But the interview would never go ahead.
Instead, his fit and healthy sister forfeited her own chance to escape the blaze so she could stay with her mother, Eslah Elgwahry, 64, who was not well enough to flee.
She stayed on the phone to Ahmed throughout her ordeal.
Ahmed said his sister became selective with the information she was giving him to protect him and comfort her mother.
Mr Elgwahry described the “torture” of watching his family die from afar.
He told the inquiry: “On my final call with Mariem, despite her suffering, despite her gradual deterioration, despite her gradual loss of consciousness, she persisted in letting me know that she was still there.
“She started fading away from me rather rapidly, but she kept going all the way until she was no longer audible. She started to mumble, started banging the floor, and then finally no longer responsive.
“It was at this point I presumed I lost my mum at the same time. But then about 20 seconds later for the first time that early morning I heard my mum’s voice.
“She was struggling for breath, and said her last words: ‘I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe’. That was the last time I heard her voice. She was so frightened that she had not spoken prior to this.”
He disconnected the call more than an hour after their final moments, he said. All he could hear was the crackle of fire.
Months later, only fragments of their bodies were recovered by the coroner and her team, who attempted to piece them back together “bone for bone, as if they were dinosaurs”.
Mr Elgwahry’s father died 20 years ago from an aggressive form of cancer, he said.
But on the night of the fire, he said he “felt like my father died again and a large part of our life, important memories were wiped out, erased in a matter of minutes”.
Mr Elgwahry said he did not have the mental strength or courage to speak about his mother in detail.
He added: “But what I will say is that my mother truly touched many hearts and was a strong woman who raised Mariem and I on our own since my father passed.”
Mother and daughter had lived on the 22nd floor of Grenfell Tower.
His mother was a great Egyptian cook who lived in the tower for around 34 years and loved to make food for her neighbours, Mr Elgwahry said.