Electrical scooter battery fireplace kills girl and baby in Harlem

A 5-year-old girl and a 36-year-old woman were killed and the child’s father was in critical condition early Wednesday in a Harlem apartment fire caused by an electric scooter’s lithium-ion battery, police and fire officials said. said

Firefighters responded just after 2:30 a.m. to a blaze in a sixth-floor apartment at the Jackie Robinson Houses, owned and operated by the New York City Housing Authority. According to the fire department, the scooter was inside the apartment’s front door and was blocking the exit. The fire was extinguished in one apartment and brought under control after about an hour. The firefighter and at least one other person suffered minor injuries.

A burnt scooter sat unattended outside a NYCHA high-rise on Wednesday. Former co-workers and neighbors of the father, identified as Erick Williams, 46, said it belonged to him. They described him as fun-loving and said he used to work for the Parks Department. The names of him, his daughter and the woman neighbors said was his friend were not immediately released by police.

E-bikes and scooters have been linked to a number of fires in recent months, leading to housing authorities propose ban them from their buildings altogether. Experts say the problems are often related to aging, damaged or malfunctioning batteries and charging devices. The fire department has repeatedly warned about the dangers of lithium-ion batteries.

Another fire Monday on Townsend Avenue in the Bronx was also caused by lithium-ion batteries from e-bikes or scooters, fire marshals said. Wednesday’s fire brings the number of deaths related to lithium-ion batteries to five this year, according to fire department statistics.

Marshals have conducted 121 battery-related investigations so far this year — up from 104 last year — and recorded 66 injuries. In all of 2021, there were 79 injuries and four deaths involving lithium-ion batteries. (Although these batteries are also found in cell phones, laptops, and electric cars, there have been no widespread reports of these items catching fire.)

According to NYCHA data, from 2019 about 10 public housing fires were officially or likely to be caused by lithium-ion batteries. In a statement Wednesday, an agency spokeswoman said the comment period on a proposed new policy banning e-bikes and e-bike batteries from its buildings has been extended to Sept. 6. final policy after that date.

The fire department distributed pamphlets and flyers on fire safety and tips for using e-bikes and scooters near the scene of the fire on Wednesday. Among the tips: Before buying an e-bike, make sure it has a UL mark, which means it has been tested and meets safety standards. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for charging and storage and use only that company’s power cord.

E-bikes have grown in popularity in recent years, but many who use them, whether for work or pleasure, can handle these guidelines. This can cost much more than buying aftermarket or refurbished equipment. And e-bikes are often used by delivery workers who are paid very little and have to scrounge to buy bikes in the first place.

There were only e-bikes legalized New York in 2020, when many residents relied on delivery services, even though it was a common sight until then. In addition to fire safety concerns are also growing friction for traffic safety in crowded city streets.

On Wednesday, the walls of the hallway near the apartment in the Harlem building were blackened and there was a smell of smoke. A woman living on the fifth floor said she fled with her children, including a 3-month-old.

“It’s scary,” she said. “It’s a tragedy that this happened, that a little girl’s life was lost.

Outside, a pair of former co-workers, Stephanie Cardona, 46, and Courtney Story, 52, discussed setting up the memorial. They worked with Mr. Williams at the Parks Department, where they said he was a crew chief. They said the scooter was “his transport”.

Ms. Cardona recalled that Mr. Williams was always at a local park with his daughter and three huskies, who they said also died in the fire.

Ms Story fought back tears as she reflected on Mr Williams’ struggle.

“I hope to God he’s OK,” she said. “It’s going to be a process to get through and then your baby is gone.”

“The world is not playing fair,” she added.

Allen Delaqueriere contributed to the research.

Leave a Comment