Lithium-ion battery caused Queens fire that killed 93-year-old woman: FDNY

ByEyewitness News WABC logo
Monday, August 14, 2023
Lithium-ion battery caused Queens fire that killed 93-year-old: FDNY
EMBED <>More Videos

Police say an e-bike repair shop was operating in the basement of a Queens building that went up in flames last week and left a 93-year-old woman dead.

OZONE PARK, Queens (WABC) -- Officials say a lithium-ion battery is to blame for the fire in Queens last week that left a 93-year-old woman dead.

The fire broke out on the second floor of a mixed-use building at 98-01 101st Avenue in Ozone Park just after 1:30 p.m. Friday.

Kam Mei Koo was found unconscious and unresponsive on the second floor. She was taken to Jamaica Hospital Medical Center where she later died.

The FDNY said Saturday that the cause of the fire was determined to be accidental and caused by a lithium-ion battery.

Inspectors said the cellar of the building was being occupied as an e-bike repair shop and the first floor was illegally converted into an apartment with a constructed loft for sleeping quarters.

The Department of Building issued two violations to the property owner, Jack Koo, who is the victim's son.

He denied the e-bikes in the basement were being repaired.

"I have a lot storage, my mom has a lot of stuff downstairs, I have some parts for computers, for old parts," Koo said.

Koo said his mother had trouble getting around on her own. He fought back tears as he imagined her trapped inside.

Local business owners said they never saw signs of an e-bike shop.

"Our heart goes out to him, he's the nicest guy in the world, I couldn't say a bad thing about him, he's just so nice, it breaks all our hearts," said Sam Esposito with the Ozone Park Residents Block Association.

Years ago Koo ran a computer repair shop and some community members feared that was a fire hazard.

"When he was in the storefront it was big, so in the storefront it was acceptable," Esposito said. "When he bought this building and moved in the back it was a very very small room. And we just felt it was just too small to operate that type of business in this building with the amount of laptops he was fixing."

The FDNY said there have been 14 deaths in 2023 associated with lithium-ion battery fires and more than 90 injuries.

Koo said he recently purchased two e-bikes but he says those bikes were on the first floor.

DOB inspectors said they found heavy fire damage on the first and second floors -- not in the basement where inspectors allege there was an e-bike shop.

Koo said the basement was full of old computer parts.

ALSO READ | Shocking mob-style smash-and-grab robbery at California Nordstrom caught on camera


* More Queens news

* Send us a news tip

* Download the abc7NY app for breaking news alerts

* Follow us on YouTube

Submit a tip or story idea to Eyewitness News

Have a breaking news tip or an idea for a story we should cover? Send it to Eyewitness News using the form below. If attaching a video or photo, terms of use apply.