Explosion of e-bike battery caused fire, man’s death at Downtown Eastside rooming house: SRO owner

Betty

The 32-year-old man’s body was located in the alleyway beside the Hotel Empress Saturday morning.

Article content

A male tenant is dead after an e-bicycle battery exploded, potentially causing him to fall from his Downtown Eastside window Saturday morning, according to officials.

Advertisement 2

Article content

Trevor Connelly, deputy chief of Vancouver Fire Rescue Services operations, said a resulting fire ignited around 7 a.m. on the second floor of the Hotel Empress, located in the 230-block of East Hastings Street.

“The hotel’s sprinkler system did go off, which contained the fire to the room but the explosion caused damage to the building,” said Connelly.

Twenty-five crew members were sent to tackle the blaze. One of them found the body of the 32-year-old man in the alleyway beside the hotel.

“It looks like the man had been sitting near the room’s window ledge and the resulting explosion caused him to fall,” said Connelly.

One person died after a fire at the Empress Hotel SRO on East Hastings in the DTES early Saturday morning. The incident is under investigation.(Photo by Jason Payne/ PNG)
One person died after a fire at the Empress Hotel SRO on East Hastings in the DTES early Saturday morning. The incident is under investigation.(Photo by Jason Payne/ PNG) Photo by Jason Payne /PNG

Police confirmed two others sustained injuries from the explosion.

The hotel’s owner, Christopher Wall, said that when he arrived at the scene 45 minutes after the incident, building staff told him the tenant may have jumped out of the window.

Advertisement 3

Article content

“However, judging by the broken glass in the alley below, it seems he was forced out of the window.”

Empress tenants aren’t allowed to store e-bicycles or their batteries in their rooms, Wall said.

“It is very unfortunate, the male tenant had been instructed not to have their e-bike or its battery in their room. He did not heed our advice.”

Christopher Wall, owner of the Hotel Empress, poses for a photo inside the Empress Bar in Vancouver, BC, November, 9, 2021. (Richard Lam/PNG)
Christopher Wall, owner of the Hotel Empress, poses for a photo inside the Empress Bar in Vancouver, BC, November, 9, 2021. (Richard Lam/PNG) Photo by RICHARD LAM /PNG

While 24-hour on site security works closely with the city to perform spot inspections of the Empress’s rooms, the owner admitted: “It is difficult to know exactly what is brought in.”

City engineers confirm the damage to the 76-room single room occupancy hotel wasn’t structural, Wall said. “That means we will be able to bring back tenants on the third floor almost immediately.”

Advertisement 4

Article content

Arrangements to stay at an overnight shelter have been made for 13 second-floor tenants who were displaced by the fire.

Wall has plans to use dehumidifiers to address the water damage on the second floor.

“We have repairs booked for first thing Monday morning. Once damage to the room’s wall is fixed, second-floor tenants will be able to move back in.”

Hours after the explosion, Vancouver resident Sherry Hill was worried about the well-being of her brother and uncle, who rent rooms at the hotel.

“My mom, who lives close, just went to check on them,” Hill told Postmedia News on Saturday afternoon. She later confirmed her uncle was staying in a room next to the one rocked by the explosion.

“My brother is safe at my mom’s now,” she said.

Advertisement 5

Article content

Preliminary investigation evidence shows the e-bicycle battery, thought of as a likely cause for the fire, was charging at the time of its explosion.

“The fire didn’t have anything to do with the infrastructure of the building, but the battery itself,” said Connelly, confirming that Vancouver crews have seen fires ignited by similar reasons. “We are continuing to investigate.”

As electric cycles have become increasingly popular in North America, concerns have arisen about the fire risk associated with lithium batteries used to charge them. In April, North Vancouver crews were called to extinguish a house fire ignited by the malfunction.

In October, Consumer Reports found that 75 e-bicycle fires ignited in New York last year alone, causing 72 injuries and three deaths.

The city’s fire department issued a warning on social media: “If using a lithium battery, always use the manufacturer’s cord and power adapter made specifically for the device. If a battery overheats, discontinue use immediately.”

[email protected]


More news, fewer ads: Our in-depth journalism is possible thanks to the support of our subscribers. For just $3.50 per week, you can get unlimited, ad-lite access to The Vancouver Sun, The Province, National Post and 13 other Canadian news sites. Support us by subscribing today: The Vancouver Sun | The Province

Advertisement 1

Comments

Postmedia is committed to maintaining a lively but civil forum for discussion and encourage all readers to share their views on our articles. Comments may take up to an hour for moderation before appearing on the site. We ask you to keep your comments relevant and respectful. We have enabled email notifications—you will now receive an email if you receive a reply to your comment, there is an update to a comment thread you follow or if a user you follow comments. Visit our Community Guidelines for more information and details on how to adjust your email settings.

Next Post

NHTSA Issues Initial Crash Report for Driver Assist Tech

In 2021, the Countrywide Highway Traffic Basic safety Administration (NHTSA) questioned makers to start reporting motor vehicle accidents exactly where State-of-the-art Driver Help Systems (ADAS) and/or semi-autonomous driving aids had been engaged. The company was especially intrigued in incidents where these units have been energetic at the very least 30 […]
NHTSA Issues Initial Crash Report for Driver Assist Tech

Subscribe US Now