Arconic, the company that made flammable livery to spread the Grenfell Tower fire, said more heat was emitted from the burning contents of the victims’ apartments, in a combative and unapologetic closing statement to the public inquiry.
In a recent letter that sought to dismiss liability for the 72 deaths, the company also said that if others involved in the 2014-16 renovation had correctly read a safety certificate for its plastic-filled panels that it said were combustible most likely no one would want to. He died and alleged that his client faced “an agenda all along to subject them to indictment”.
The investigation has already found that the 14 June 2017 fire that killed 72 people in the West London Council Building was primarily spread through Arconic aluminum composite panels that burned like gasoline. Lawyers for victims and survivors accused Arconic of bearing the greatest responsibility for the rapid growth and spread of the fire, of being “reckless in paying dangerous products” and “fraudulent in its sales methods.”
But Stephen Hochman KC, a lawyer for Arconic, accused the other companies of blaming Arconic as a “too convenient way to evade its liability” and said it was “unfair” and “deeply disappointing” to claim that Arconic misled the market.
Hochman also said it has been demonstrated by expert witnesses that “at least half of the heat load occurred as a result of the combustion of the apartment contents rather than the combustion of the cladding system components”.
On Monday, lawyers for the bereaved challenged the organizations involved in the renewal to say sorry and warned that doing otherwise would be “injustice wracking injustice.” Hawkman did not do so but expressed his “deep sympathy to all those directly affected” by the fire.
Earlier Tuesday, the cladding contractor, Harley Facades, defended his role after lawyers for the bereaved concluded they knew the panels he was installing were highly combustible, that they had been “extremely neglected” and their behavior was “wholly inappropriate” with Failed subcontractor designer. To check if the panels meet building regulations.
Jonathan Laidlaw KC, who appeared in Harley, acknowledged claims that the companies were engaged in a round of manipulation that “might be true”. He admitted that there were “deficiencies” and “omissions”. But, he said, “the overwhelmingly dominant factor in the catastrophic spread of fire is the use of these materials.”
Harley was “really frustrated and angry” about the manufacturers’ behavior and said the government had failed to intervene to stop ACM when testing before the fire showed it was burning like “inferno”.
For Arconic, Hockman’s main defense against allegations that it failed to warn users about fire performance or make misleading statements was testimony, obtained from the British Council of Aggression Certification Authority, which “makes it clear that the product was combustible”.
Manufacturing and selling its panels was “completely legal” at the time. Turning to criticism that when the cladding was bent into cassette shapes, as in the Grenfell Tower, it did not meet the main fire performance threshold, he said that Arconic supplied it as a panel and was shaped “by or on behalf of the buyer”.
“Primary responsibility for any alleged misuse of the product should lie with those actually responsible for the design and construction of the architectural project,” Hochman said.
Arconic is a US-based multi-billion dollar multinational company, but the subsidiary that supplied Grenfell with the materials is based in France. Several key Arconic executives refused to be questioned in the investigation, citing an old French law known as the Prohibition Act.
In 2015, Claude Wehrle, one of those who declined, sent an internal email warning that the panels she was selling were “facade hazards and everything should be moved to fireproof urgently”.
Hochman said Whirl expressed “excessively cautious” views. He also said that not disclosing 2005 test results for cassette panels, as used at Grenfell, which burn 10 times faster than flat panels, was “no problem” because there was certification that advised further testing of the fire resistance of any cladding system Full.
He claimed that the potentially deadly toxic carbon monoxide released from Arconic’s burnt cladding panels was not as dangerous to human life as hydrogen cyanide gas from the combustion of other companies’ foam insulation.
Kingspan made a small amount of combustible insulation used in the tower, but lawyers accused the person who went missing of being “reckless in pushing dangerous products.” The company used its closing statement to insist that there was no expert evidence to suggest that a fire would have been different if non-combustible insulation had been used.
“Much of the responsibility for the Grenfell Tower tragedy lies with Arconic as a manufacturer of polyethylene ACM,” said Geraint Webb KC, who represents Kingspan. “The responsibility also lies with those responsible for the design, construction and approval of the renovation.”
Webb said the company “apologizes for … deficiencies with regard to testing and certification of the K 15 prior to 2015.” But he said, “None of these deficiencies were a cause of the fire, or the nature or speed of the fire’s spread in any way.”
The investigation is ongoing.