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'I thought it was a gunshot' - Battery charger explosion causes Norwich fire and pierces two full beer cans

PUBLISHED: 07:50 12 March 2018 | UPDATED: 12:01 12 March 2018

Louis Browne bought a battery charger online, which exploded in his kitchen. Picture: Ian Burt

Louis Browne bought a battery charger online, which exploded in his kitchen. Picture: Ian Burt

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A battery charger made in China exploded inside a Norwich home with such force debris pierced through two full cans of beer.

A charger bought online exploded in Louis Browne's kitchen. Photo: Louis BrowneA charger bought online exploded in Louis Browne's kitchen. Photo: Louis Browne

It happened when Louis Browne was at home in Armes Street with his partner Chloe Smith and their one-year-old daughter Nevaeh.

Mr Browne, a painter and decorator, said: “We had been to my mum’s for a roast, we came home and we were home for around half an hour when I heard bang, bang, bang.”

Mr Browne, who was in the family’s lounge watching a football match, ran into the kitchen.

He said: “I thought someone was trying to break-in or it was a gunshot or something.”

A charger bought online exploded in Louis Browne's kitchen. Photo: Louis BrowneA charger bought online exploded in Louis Browne's kitchen. Photo: Louis Browne

But the terrifying eruption was instead five explosions from a charger and batteries Mr Browne, 25, had bought online for £40.88.

Not only had the explosions caused a fire but a piece of debris had been propelled with such force it burst through two full cans of Stella Artois beer on the kitchen worktop.

Mr Browne, who put the fire out himself, said: “The batteries flew out too, if we’d stayed at my mum’s for an extra hour we might not have had a home to come back to or if my little girl had been in the kitchen it could have been worse.”

Since the explosions, Mr Browne had contacted Norfolk Trading Standards and been told the item came from China - and that the seller he purchased it from sold another 25,000 Chinese items.

Louis Browne bought a battery charger online, which exploded in his kitchen. Picture: Ian BurtLouis Browne bought a battery charger online, which exploded in his kitchen. Picture: Ian Burt

“But I don’t want compensation or anything,” he said. “I just want people to be aware. It’s scary and you don’t expect it.”

Trading Standards has previously issued warnings about buying cheap chargers online as well as second-hand electronics.

In one operation, investigators bought 400 Apple chargers from suppliers around the world and 397 failed a basic safety test.

Leon Livermore, Chartered Trading Standards Institute chief executive, said: “Only buy second-hand electrical goods that have been tested and only buy online electrical goods from trusted suppliers.

The remains of a radio battery that was charging in Loius Browne's kitchen when the charger exploded. Picture: Ian BurtThe remains of a radio battery that was charging in Loius Browne's kitchen when the charger exploded. Picture: Ian Burt

“It might cost a few pounds more but counterfeit and second-hand goods are an unknown entity that could cost you your home or even your life, or the life of a loved-one.”

Lord Toby Harris, chairman of National Trading Standards, added: “Many of us quite rightly assume that everything we buy will be safe, but work by our teams show how dangerous electrical goods can easily end up in homes up and down the country.

“Criminals across the globe are using online platforms to lure you in with cheap deals for fake items, many of which are dangerous and have been known to overheat and cause house fires.”

What to look out for

Louis Browne bought a battery charger online, which exploded in his kitchen. Picture: Ian BurtLouis Browne bought a battery charger online, which exploded in his kitchen. Picture: Ian Burt

Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice, said: “Counterfeit electrical goods are likely to be poor quality and in the worst cases unsafe.

“Look out for tell-tale signs of counterfeiting such as mistakes in brand names or logos, and check plugs for safety marks - all genuine electrical items made in the EU should have a CE mark on them.

Other measures consumers can take to remain safe – particularly if they have already bought electronic items online – include checking casings are not damaged, cables are not frayed and ensuring pins fit in sockets easily without excess force.

Electrical Safety First also offer Plug Checkers, at a cost, to ensure the plugs on electrical appliances meet the required standards.

Louis Browne bought a battery charger online, which exploded in his kitchen. Picture: Ian BurtLouis Browne bought a battery charger online, which exploded in his kitchen. Picture: Ian Burt

If you believe that any online or face-to-face seller is selling potentially dangerous goods, or something you’ve bought has made you suspicious, report it to Citizen’s Advice consumer service on 03454 04 05 06.

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