Boxing helps me cope with Grenfell trauma, says victim aged 13

The sister of the youngest victim of the Grenfell Tower fire has told how boxing has helped her come to terms withthe tragedy.

Luana Gomes, 13, who sufferedcyanide poisoning caused by smoke, escaped from the 21st floor of the block with her parents Marcio and Andreia, and younger sister Megan, when the fire took hold in June last year.

Luana and her mother, who was seven months pregnant, were put in medically induced comas because of their injuries. Tragically, Mrs Gomes’s baby died due to the fumes and was delivered stillborn, becoming the fire’s 72ndvictim. The baby was named by the family as Logan Isaac with Mr Gomeshaving to break the tragic news to his wife when she came round.

Speaking publicly for the first time, Luana said she would get “stressed and angry” when thinking about what had happened. But she has found solace in boxing, and trains at the Dale Youth Amateur Boxing Club, whose home at Grenfell Tower was destroyed and has been given new premises thanks to the BBC’s DIY SOS team.

Speaking on the programme, to be broadcast next Wednesday, Luana said training at the gym was a cathartic process for her. “I would get stressed and angry but I would not have anywhere to get it off my shoulders,” she said.


Rescue work: Prince William on the site of the new gym. (Adrian Dennis/PA Wire)

“I felt sick, but when I go boxing it makes me release all the anger out on the punch bags, and when I leave, I feel lighter and there are no weights on my shoulder any more.” Luana and her family fled Grenfell Tower in darkness, stepping over bodies to escape after being woken by a neighbour at 2am.

Mr Gomes, an IT manager, phoned the fire brigade, telling them his wife and daughters were asthmatic, but was told to stay in their flat. It was only at 3.30am when he saw flames burst into his bedroom that he realised they had to escape. He wrapped his wife and two daughters in wet towels before leading them through the raging fire.

But halfway down he realised Luana was not in front of him, so he turned and ran back up the stairs, finding that she had collapsed unconscious from smoke inhalation. When the family got out they were taken to hospital.

Luana, who had lived in Grenfell Tower for 10 years, said going to the gym helped her deal with the horror and stay in touch with friends. The famous boxing club, which spawned the careers of world champions James DeGale and George Groves, has been temporarily housed in a car park since the blaze.

Nick Knowles’s DIY SOS team were assisted by the Duke of Cambridge to build the new premises and a community centre. Veteran coach Mick Delaney, who runs the club, said the new gym was “like paradise” and would be a huge help to the community. He added: “They have done a great job for us. Everyone is over the moon.”
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