Survivors of a devastating high-rise fire in London wept Monday as relatives paid tribute to some of the 72 victims at the opening of an inquiry into Britain’s deadliest blaze in decades.
The Grenfell Tower inquiry is beginning with two weeks of tributes to those who died when a fire that began in a faulty fridge raced through the 24-story apartment block in June 2017. The statements from friends and family members are meant to keep the victims at the center of the inquiry, which will try to determine how the disaster happened and prevent a similar tragedy happening in the future.
“When we die, we live on in the memories of those who knew and loved us,” said retired judge Martin Moore-Bick, who is leading the inquiry. “It is fitting therefore that the opening hearings … should be dedicated to the memory of those who died.”
The victims included baby Logan Gomes, who was stillborn after his family escaped from the 21st floor of the building.
“He might not be here physically, but he will always be here in our hearts, and will be forever,” said his father Marcio Gomes, his voice breaking. “I know he’s here, with God, right next to me, giving me strength and courage to take this forward.”
The inquiry heard a message left by Mohamed Amied Neda from inside his apartment.
“Goodbye, we are leaving this world now, goodbye,” said the 57-year-old, who came to Britain from Afghanistan and ran a chauffeur company. He was found dead after falling from the building. His wife and son were left comatose but survived.
Mohammadou Saye remembered his 24-year-old daughter Khadija Saye, a promising visual artist whose work was shown at last year’s Venice Biennale.
“Her burning passion was photography, encouraged by her mother, Mary Mendy, who also lost her life in the same fire,” he said in a statement read by a lawyer.
“Khadija said to me one day: `Daddy, I’m in love with images.”
Moore-Bick’s inquiry will look at causes of the blaze, the response of local authorities and the country’s high-rise building regulations. But some survivors are critical because it won’t investigate wider issues around social housing that many residents had wanted to include.
Many residents accuse officials in Kensington and Chelsea, one of London’s richest boroughs, of ignoring their safety concerns because the publicly owned tower was home to a largely immigrant and working-class population.
Police say they are considering individual or corporate manslaughter charges in the blaze, but no one has yet been charged.