One year on from the Grenfell Tower fire, a Carlow man has revealed how lucky he was to escape the tragedy with his family.
On Thursday it will be 12 months since a small kitchen fire in the west London high-rise turned into a deadly blaze, resulting in the death of 72 people.
RTE’s Louise Byrne, who reported from the area one year ago, returned to Grenfell and spoke to an Irish man who escaped the fire.
“We sat on the green looking at our homes going up in flames. The fire was devouring the building.”
— Louise Byrne News (@LouiseByrneNews) June 12, 2018
Willie Thompson moved into the eighth floor of Grenfell Tower in 1987 with his wife and two daughters.
The Carlow man escaped from the fire with his family but many of his neighbours perished – and he still prays for them.
“I felt, I still do when I’m here, I feel close to my friends. They are always in my prayers. Always. And always will be,” Mr Thompson told Ms Byrne.
Mr Thompson also recounted his experience of the night, saying a neighbour’s nephew ringing his doorbell proved life-saving.
“Somebody rang our doorbell. My neighbour’s nephew was at the door and he said ‘I think there’s a fire in the building’.
“And I said protocol tells us we’ve got to stay in – it will be contained. I said ‘don’t be worried, you’re okay’ and he went back in.
Ahead of the first anniversary of the disaster, Carlow man and Grenfell Tower resident, Willie Thompson, describes the night his home was destroyed. pic.twitter.com/3lJM6VuFTE
— Louise Byrne News (@LouiseByrneNews) June 13, 2018
“Five minutes later, the doorbell went again and it was him again. And when I opened the door, the lifts are on the left. I saw black smoke coming through the lifts and I smelled it. And I knew – I knew. Deep down I knew – we were in trouble.
“We came out pretty early. We got out…1.25[am] when we got out which was early in proceedings.
“We stood on the green that night looking at our homes going up at an alarming rate. This fire was devouring the building.”
“It’s the only way I can describe it. It was eating our building, eating our homes.
“People were in there. You could see their phones, you could see people out the windows screaming.”
Now living in a new council flat, Mr Thompson told the RTÉ reporter that he has never returned to his former home.
“My two daughters have gone back. They wanted to say goodbye. They wanted to go in and see their home… They never knew anywhere else. It was there home.”
When asked what justice he would like to see come out of the enquiry he said there was only one thing that could help.
“If anything is to come of this I pray there will never be another Grenfell. Because nobody needs this.
“If someone were to say to me now, ‘Willie that will never ever happen again’, that would help.
“Please don’t let this happen again to anybody. No one should go through this. No one.”
A 24-hour vigil is due to take place on the eve of the anniversary, beginning at 6pm on Wednesday where mourners can reflect on the 72 people who died.
At 1.30am, the names of the fire’s victims will be read out at St Clements’ church.
You can listen to the full report from Lousie Byrne here.