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Father whose wife and children died in e-bike battery fire demands law change as cases surge

Scott Peden says he ‘lost his world’ when a charging e-bike battery exploded in his home

Alex Ross
Saturday 21 October 2023 15:08 BST
Footage shared by London Fire Brigade showing the moment an e-bike batter exploded in Roehampton on 20 May

A man whose wife and children were killed in a fire started by a charging e-bike is demanding more regulation to prevent another family from facing a similar tragedy.

Scott Peden’s appeal comes as figures obtained by The Independent show there were at least 279 UK fires involving e-scooters and e-bikes in 2022, up from 167 in 2021.

The father-of-two says he “lost his world” when his wife Gemma Germeney, 31, daughter Lilly Peden, eight, and son Oliver Peden, four, were killed in the blaze at the family’s two-storey maisonette in Cambridge, in June.

Scott Peden lost his wife Gemma, daughter Lilly and son Oliver (Scott Peden / Facebook)

Hearing an explosion in the night, Mr Peden jumped out of an upstairs window to get to the e-bike through a back door. But finding the downstairs engulfed with flames, he was unable to go back up and rescue his family.

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An investigation concluded the blaze most likely centred on a replacement lithium e-bike battery left on charge. The battery had been bought by Mr Peden on eBay just two days before, after his previous one was stolen.

Speaking to The Independent, Mr Peden demanded “proper regulation” of lithium batteries, and joins firefighters, council leaders and charities who have all demanded a tougher stance from the government.

“We need to have regulation on the sale of e-scooter and e-bike batteries, some sort of MOT on them to ensure they are safe whenever they are sold to people,” said the 30-year-old, who spent more than a month in hospital with burns after the fire on June 30.

“They are absolutely lethal. The battery in my house went off like a grenade and within two minutes the whole house was on fire. I really tried everything but the fire was so fast and powerful, it killed my family.

“These batteries, they contain extremely toxic gases – you don’t have a chance when one bursts into flames. We must do something,”

The tragic scene at Mr Peden’s home in Cambridge after fire ripped through the property (Scott Peden)

In London alone, there have been three fatal fires caused by an e-bike or e-scooter battery so far this year. Mizanur Rahman, 41, died after a modified battery burst into flames in his flat in Shadwell in March.

At Mr Rahman’s inquest, Adam Smith, coroner for Inner North London, wrote a prevention of future deaths report which said it was easy for people to buy lithium batteries that were not of sufficient quality.

Stating it was clear “there are no controls or standards” on the sale of lithium batteries and chargers, he urged the Office for Product Safety and Standards (OPSS) to introduce an “appropriate standard” to protect users.

Damage caused to a flat in Shepherds Bush after a fire involving an e-bike in June last year (PA Media)

The number of fires involving e-scooters and e-bikes in London has continued to rise this year, with 141 call-outs to 10 October, up from 116 across the whole of 2022.

London Fire Brigade sub officer Micky Bhasin told The Independent: “We fear we will continue to see a high level of these fires unless urgent research takes place into the causes of these battery fires.

“Proper regulation is also required to help prevent people unknowingly purchasing dangerous products, such as batteries and conversion kits, from online marketplaces.”

The charity Electrical Safety First produced its own report on lithium batteries, which called for more consumer awareness campaigns, a mandatory third-party certification for batteries before sale and an improvement in reporting incidents.

Charity product safety engineer, Giuseppe Capanna, said he wanted e-bikes, e-scooters and batteries to be regulated in the same way as fireworks, with third-party approval.

He said: “There are too many reckless operators in this space, such as third-party sellers on online marketplaces, who are risking the lives of the public and giving responsible manufacturers of these products a bad name.”

Last month, the mayor of Tower Hamlets wrote to home secretary Suella Braverman asking her to do more on the issue.

The OPSS said it was working on its first-ever safety study on e-scooters and e-bikes, which will explore regulations and enforcement. Under current regulations, there are product safety requirements that manufacturers must follow before selling items, it said.

A government spokesperson said: “The Office for Product Safety and Standards is working closely with the fire service to review all evidence of fires involving lithium batteries in e-bikes and e-scooters, to ensure the product safety issues are properly assessed and action is taken to protect users from harm.”

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