Sofia Duarte

was 21 years old when she lost her life in an e-bike fire on New Years Day. 

Sofia Duarte was 21 years old. She was born in Portugal before moving to London with her family. Her family described her as a fun-loving girl that enjoyed dancing, spending time with friends and travelling. Sophia worked in a night club and when she finished work on 1 January she went to stay at the flat. 

Whilst she slept some other residents where in the kitchen when they heard an explosion. When they investigated, they found a fire had started at the bottom of the stairs.

They tried to fight the fire with an extinguisher and bucket of water. However, this had little effect, and the fire continued to grow. Realising the danger, they raised the alarm to the other residents. Seeing the fire exit blocked by fire, they began to climb out a window. 

The emergency calls

Ten members of the public had called our Control Room to report an intense fire and the first fire crews were on the scene in four minutes, just before 5pm. They arrived to the scene of a ferocious fire. Flames were running from the ground floor to the second floor, with visible flames coming out of the windows.

Sofia was awoken by the noise of a smoke alarm. Thick smoke was filling the bedroom. Her partner suggested they needed to exit through the window, but Sofia headed towards the bedroom door, and the stairs beyond. She wouldn’t have been  aware of the intense fire on the other side of the door, or that the fire exit was completely blocked by flames. Her partner had climbed out the window to safety, but wouldn't see her again. The fire had started only a few minutes ago. 

The first crews to arrive were confronted by a ferocious fire, and reports that one person was still inside the flat. The Incident Commander sent in firefighters wearing breathing apparatus to search for Sofia. However when they reached her, it was already too late.

Our investigation showed that the fire started in a lithium battery power pack for an e-bike. It had been placed at the bottom of the stairs, by the front door, to charge. The front door was the only safe exit from the flat in an emergency and the fire exit. Sofia is believed to be the first person to lose their life in London due to an e-bike fire.

The impact on Sofia's family

Sofia’s mother, Maria said: “Sofia was 21, she was a fun-loving girl, she loved to dance and she loved to party. She liked to go out with her friends, spend time with her boyfriend and travel. Sofia loved her job working behind the bar at a night club.”

“Now all I have left is my daughter’s ashes in a box in my room. I urge everyone to be so careful with e-bikes, so you don’t have to go through the hell I am going through. I miss my daughter so much; she was my world.”

“Sofia meant the world to me and my family. I don’t know how to live without her. It feels like a nightmare and I can’t wake up. I really want to make sure Sofia’s death is not in vain. If I can raise awareness about the dangers of e bikes and lithium batteries then there will be a positive in this. If we can save someone else’s life, I will take great comfort in that because at the moment I am hurting and I don’t want others to suffer as much as I have done."

The growing risk of e-bike and e-scooter fires 

Lithium battery fires are the fastest growing fires in London. These batteries are found in e-scooters and e-bikes Once they start, they spread extremely quickly and are really difficult to escape from. You can help reduce the risk of a lithium battery catching fire by:

You can also use our Home Fire Safety Checker to identify risks in your home.

Read more #ChargeSafe advice