9-year-old boy killed, 9 hurt in Ozone Park fire caused by e-bike battery

OZONE PARK, Queens (WABC) -- A 9-year-old boy died in a fire that tore through a home in Queens and firefighters quickly discovered it was caused by an electric bicycle battery.

The child, Remi Miguel Gomez Fernandez, was in the basement level of the 102 Road home when the fire erupted at around 2 a.m. Wednesday.

Investigators say the apartment was illegally converted with just a garage door and no front entrance.

They say the battery ignited while it was charging overnight, possibly causing an explosion, and started the fire that trapped the 9-year-old boy.

The FDNY says the batteries are often below-grade and NYC has now seen a rash of fires because of them.



"We've had 60 fires in structures caused by batteries this year alone, this is a new phenomenon in the city, and we really need to get a handle on it," said FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro.

Firefighters rushed in and pulled out nine other residents, who all escaped serious injury.

"As I opened the door, black smoke hit me and I ran and grabbed my children and ran out the house," said resident Lanesha Hayden.

Hayden's instincts kicked in as she grabbed nothing else but her two children, ages and 3 and 5. She lives on the first floor of the three-story building, just above where the fire broke out.

"I was in the back room with my daughter and I just heard an explosion and I jumped up," she said. "I came to the front living room where my spouse was to see what was going on. I open my door to see the woman who was living in the basement, she doesn't really speak proper English, and so she was just screaming."

Neighbors told Eyewitness News the family just moved into the building on Tuesday. They are in disbelief.

"Thank God the firefighters got there quickly or else we were suffocating. A lot of smoke. That's what happened. Sadly, a child lost his life," a neighbor said. "It's not easy. I thought that we were all going to die there."

A neighbor heard the screams.

"So, we all ran down and I saw, like, there were a couple of guys, they were trying to break the garage door," the neighbor said.

An FDNY deputy chief told Eyewitness News they knew right away where the fire started.

"Really this is what we consider a cellar. The garage level is completely low-grade. So the fire originated in that low-grade area," said FDNY Deputy Chief Eugene Ditaranto.

The FDNY and the Department of Buildings are investigating. They say there was no smoke detector located in the apartment.

They issued a full vacate order on the building. The department says it is no longer safe to occupy, and issued violations to the property owner.

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