‘I love you Pappy get out’: Grenfell survivor tells how son screamed down phone for him to leave as tower burned – on day inquiry hears evidence from residents who escaped for first time
- Antonio Roncolato was woken up at 1.40am by a call from his desperate son
- He told him: ‘Get out of the house, the tower’s burning, I love you Pappy get out’
- Sat in his flat eating porridge to keep calm and ‘give him the energy to escape’
One of the last survivors to escape Grenfell Tower was woken by a phone call from his son telling him to ‘get out’ as the inferno raged around him.
Antonio Roncolato had returned to his home on the 10th floor of the west London block after his shift at a hotel and was asleep when the blaze ripped through the building.
He was woken up at 1.40am by a call from his crying son, screaming: ‘Get out of the house, the tower’s burning, I love you Pappy get out’.
But Mr Roncolato was told to ‘stay put’ by emergency services so remained in his flat and ate a bowl of porridge in a bid to ‘stay calm and give him energy to escape’ before he was rescued by firefighters at 6am.
Mr Roncolato’s account was heard at the Grenfell Inquiry which is today beginning a month of evidence from survivors, neighbours and those who lost family and friends in the blaze.
Antonio Roncolato is the first survivor to give evidence at the public inquiry into the disaster
Mr Roncolato had lived in his flat for 27 years and shared the property with his son Christopher.
In a written statement, he said he first thought the noise was from a party before realising he could hear sirens and screaming.
He told the inquiry he did not think there was a smoke alarm in the hallway outside and said he spoke to a fire official who told him to ‘very much stay put’ and assured him somebody was coming to get him.
Mr Roncolato said: ‘I started waving at the crowd below and turned my lights on and off to attract their attention.
‘I could hear some people shouting ‘get out’ but there were others shouting to ‘stay put’. I did not know what to think.
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‘He [the fire official] was very determined in his words not to try anything risky basically, saying they were aware I was there and they will come and get me.’
He tried to leave his flat but was forced to retreat because of thick black smoke.
He said: ‘For some really silly reason I even put the chain on, you know to close the door properly, so it was like an instinctive reaction.
‘You cannot see, you cannot breath, you lose your bearing, you lose your senses. It was really scary.’
He added: ‘I then decided to eat the porridge that I had prepared for breakfast as I waited to be rescued. This was to keep my energy levels up, so I would be ready when the time came to leave.’
Mr Roncolato had lived in his flat for 27 years and shared the property with his son Christopher. He was trapped on the 10th floor
FURIOUS SON HITS OUT AT ‘CONFLICTING ADVICE’
In a written statement to the public inquiry, Mr Roncolato’s son, Christopher, told of how his father’s smoke detector had not sounded when he first rang his father.
‘I was effectively his fire alarm,’ he said.
He also said he was ‘angry’ to receive conflicting advice when he rang 999 on different occasions to ask what his trapped father should do.
He said: ‘Both times, the calls were answered straight away. One operator told me that my dad had to stay put.
‘However, I made another 999 call immediately afterwards and the second operator told me that my dad should leave the building straight away.’
He added: ‘I am very grateful to the firefighters for saving my dad’s life, but I do not understand why it took so long to reach him.’
He said that if there was a smoke detector ‘it wasn’t functioning that night’, as the smoke in the hallway was heavy enough to set off an alarm.
Mr Roncolato’s son sent him a picture of the tower engulfed with flames.
He continued: ‘I then really started to focus on how to get out of the tower alive. I knew that one mistake would be fatal. ‘
His son called him after sending the photo and passed on his location to a fire marshal.
He said: ‘The fire marshal told me to stay put as the fire was not near my flat and they would come and get me. I felt reassured after this call.’
His front door was ‘warm to touch’ and when he opened it a few inches ‘very, very thick smoke came billowing’ into his face.
He added: ‘It was pitch black. My eyes were stinging; I was almost crying. It was impossible to breathe.’
Mr Roncolato told the inquiry residents had started a petition to have a concierge reinstated, which had been removed following the tower’s refurbishment.
He said: ‘We would have liked to have it but that would have implemented more costs, that’s what the team would say to us, but we were trying to find a way to persuade them to have again this service that was taken away.’
Mr Roncolato called the night manager at the hotel where he worked to tell him he was trapped in his flat and would not be able to come to work.
The manager replied that he should ‘get the hell out of there’.
Mr Roncolato was told to ‘stay put’ by emergency services so remained in his flat
He said: ‘Throughout the night Christopher kept calling me telling me he loved me and to make sure I was ok. I told him that it was not my time and I needed him to be strong.’
Mr Roncolato said the last call he made before he was rescued was at 5.46am.
Two firefighters in breathing apparatus entered his flat at 6am and told him they would walk behind and in front of him as they attempted to descend the stairs.
He said: ‘I then put on Christopher’s goggles and my rucksack, pulled the zip up on my jacket and placed a cap on my head.
‘One of the firemen took off my cap and placed a big wet towel over me instead. I was also given a smaller wet towel to hold over my mouth and nose. They said ‘are you ready? Let’s go!’.’
Firefighters then guided him through the tower and helped him when he trapped his leg on the stairwell.
He added: ‘I was one of the lucky ones, especially after being trapped for so long. I could have so easily been one of the 72 people that needlessly died.
‘If it had not been for Christopher calling me, I would not have known about the fire.
‘I also now know that numerous 999 calls were made about me throughout the night, but it was not until the final call, when Christopher handed his friend’s phone over to a fire marshal, that firefighters were sent to finally rescue me.
‘I do not understand why this information was not communicated to the firefighters earlier, but I will be eternally grateful to the two firefighters who no doubt saved my life.’
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