Grenfell Tower fire: Survivor recounts 'tripping over bodies' in harrowing escape

‘I will never live in a tower block again,’ 41-year-old Christos Fairbairn said

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The Independent Online

A resident who managed to escape from the 15th floor of London’s Grenfell Tower as a fire engulfed the building said he feels “lucky to be alive”. 

Christos Fairbairn said he “will never forget” the harrowing experience and “will never live in a tower block again”. 

He added that he was “tripping over bodies” in the darkness as he tried to make his way to the stairs. 

The 41-year-old, who moved into the west London tower block two years ago, said he was watching television when he heard an alarm go off and saw smoke starting to seep into his flat.

“I rang the fire service and they told me to get out,” Mr Fairbairn told the BBC. “I tried to leave the flat three times, and each time the smoke was too thick. I started to panic. I began banging on the window shouting: ‘Help me, help me, I’m stuck’. 

“I tried to open the window, but I burnt my hand on the melted plastic. I could see police outside and people just standing there. It felt like they were just watching me. 

“Then I realised if I don’t go, I would die here.”

He then wrapped a wet jumper around himself and ran out the door. 

“The smoke was black and it was so hot I couldn’t breathe, but I kept going,” he said. 

Mr Fairbairn said he was “tripping over bodies” in the darkness as he tried to make his way to the stairs. 

“On one of the floors I tripped badly and fell, as I looked up I saw the face of a dead man. I can still picture him now.”

By the time Mr Fairbairn made it to the third or fourth floor, he says he was choking and unable to breathe. 

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“I started to feel faint. I collapsed and that’s when I felt a firefighter grab me,” he said. 

After making it out of the building, he was taken to hospital and treated for smoke inhalation. 

“I was crying and having flashbacks. Now I’m left with nothing and nowhere to live,” Mr Fairbairn said. “I can’t believe I am alive. I will never forget what happened and how traumatising it was.

“I know I will never live in a tower block again.”