Firefighter who saved three people from Grenfell Tower loses unfair dismissal battle

Afirefighter who rescued three people from Grenfell Tower has lost an unfair dismissal battle after he was sacked for continuing to run a gardening firm while off sick.David De Costa helped save residents from the blaze in North Kensington, west London, in June 2017 and was subsequently diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder.He was signed off sick for almost two years, but was eventually fired from the London Fire Brigade after it emerged he had continued to run his gardening business while on full pay.However, Mr De Costa claimed he had been sacked because it was too ‘expensive’ for bosses to continue to pay him his full salary while on sick leave.An employment tribunal has since ruled he was fairly dismissed, saying the former firefighter had attempted to ‘brazen out’ an investigation into his wrongdoing.It was added that Mr De Costa provided a ‘frankly wholly implausible explanation’.Mr De Costa was among hundreds of firefighters to attend the tragedy at Grenfell Tower on June 14, 2017 after a blaze erupted in the kitchen of a fourth-floor flat.He gave a witness statement in November 2018 which detailed his involvement in the disaster.The fire ultimately claimed the lives of 72 people.He said: ‘As a team of four we made our way up the internal staircase.The visibility was poor.’We were at the 11th floor where we carried out three rescues of one adult female, one adult male and one infant and led them down one floor where they were passed on to another team.’ He added they then continued with their search and rescue mission ‘but conditions were too hot and there was visible fire’ so he and his team made their way out.A total of 65 people were rescued from the burning building by firefighters.Mr De Costa was diagnosed with PTSD following the fire, and was signed off sick from July 22.He never returned to work and was on full pay until he was dismissed.Prior to his sick leave, Mr De Costa had been granted permission to undertake outside work by running a gardening maintenance business.He had applied for permission in line with his employment contract.This document also stated that working during a period of sickness would be regarded as an ‘act of gross misconduct’ which he could lose his job over.In 2018, an investigation into whether Mr De Costa was working while on full sick pay was launched after he failed to attend several occupational health meetings.A disciplinary hearing took place on July 11 2019, where Mr De Costa claimed he had sold his business in the spring of 2018 and had not worked for it since.The tribunal heard that Mr De Costa was dismissed at the end of this meeting.
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