Death toll rises to four in fast-moving e-scooter battery fire in upper Manhattan, FDNY says

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Two more people have died from injuries suffered in a fast-moving Manhattan apartment fire sparked by an e-scooter battery, bringing the blaze’s death toll to four people, FDNY Commissioner Laura Kavanagh said.

The two deaths bring to nine the number of people believed killed across the city so far in 2023 by burning lithium-ion batteries used for electric bikes, scooters and hoverboards.

“Now, for the first time in decades, lithium-ion related fire deaths so far this year have surpassed electrical fires as the leading cause of fire deaths in New York City,” Kavanagh said in a statement.

The fire “should serve as a reminder to New Yorkers about the need to remain vigilant about e-safety,” Kavanagh added. “We don’t want to see any more lives lost due to lithium-ion battery fires.”

The blaze erupted Sunday just before 1:00 p.m. inside a fourth-floor apartment at 565 W. 190th St. in Washington Heights. Firefighters brought the flames under control within an hour.

The matriarch of the household, Bertha Domenech Santiago, 94, and her nephew, Luis Dominech, died from their injuries on Monday.

Domenech Santiago worked as a hotel maid into her 70s, said her grandson, Robert Santiago. “She had a heart of gold. She leaves a grown daughter and a son,” Santiago said. “She outlived two of her other daughters.”

Luis Domenech was disabled. “He was my uncle.... She fed him. She took care of him. She was like a mother to him. He was a very simple man,” said Robert Santiago.

The two people whose deaths were reported late Thursday are believed to be the only other people injured in the fire.

They include Santiago’s home health aide and a male tenant of the building. City officials have not yet released their identities.

Neighbors identified the deceased home health aide’s GoFundMe page, which identifies her as a Honduran immigrant with three children.

The deceased male tenant was a 20-year-old man who immigrated from the Dominican Republic and rented a room from Santiago, said neighbors.

He worked at a factory in New Jersey, and attended George Washington High School several blocks away and planned to continue his studies in hope of becoming a mechanic, people who knew him said. He also owned the e-scooter that caught fire, said neighbors.

“He was a hard-working kid .... He did everything to bring his mother from the Dominican Republic to New York. Sometimes he even went without food,” said a friend, Peter Rodriguez, 43.