Boyfriend's battle to save model killed in horror e-bike battery blaze

‘I didn’t care about the heat, I was just trying to find her’ Boyfriend of model, 21, killed in flat blaze caused by e-bike battery fire tells of battle to save her after she refused to jump out of window as flames ripped through building

  • ‘Superstar’ model Sofia Duarte died in a fire caused by converted e-bike battery
  • Her boyfriend Luis Zambrano relived the horror that unfolded on New Year’s Day 

A boyfriend of a model killed in a horror flat blaze on New Year’s Day has told of his battle to save her after she refused to jump out of a second-storey window with him.

Sofia Duarte, 21, died in a fire caused by a converted e-bike battery ripped through her apartment building on the Old Kent Road in south London on January 1.

Her boyfriend, Luis Zambrano, also 21, managed to escape by jumping out of his bedroom window on the roof of Nigerian restaurant Calabar Zone.

Ms Duarte worked at Fabric nightclub, where she met Mr Zambrano who worked as a barman, and when she finished work, went to the flat where she was sleeping when other residents heard an explosion.

Discovering a fire had started at the bottom of the stairs, panicked residents tried to extinguish the flames with a bucket of water but it continued to grow.

Sofia Duarte, 21, died in a flat fire caused by a converted e-bike battery which burst into flames

Luis Zambrano, also 21, managed to escape by jumping out of his bedroom window

The devastation caused by the fire at the property on the Old Ken Road in south London

The fire was started when a charging e-bike battery exploded on the ground floor and took only minutes to grow into a ferocious inferno.

The ‘fun-loving’ daughter of Portuguese immigrants, who enjoyed dancing, spending time with friends and travelling, is believed to be the first person to lose their life in London due to an e-bike fire. 

READ MORE: New safety warning over e-bikes and e-scooters as shocking photos show devastation caused by devices bursting into flames

Recalling how the first he knew of the fire was when awoke to screaming and ‘white smoke’ in his room, Mr Zambrano has told of the horror that unfolded.

He told MyLondon: ‘When I opened the door it was really bad. As soon as I opened the door I felt the heat blast.

‘I had never experienced a fire in my life, it smelled like acid. It was really unbreathable, immediately I closed the door. That’s when I said ‘we are jumping’.’

But Ms Duarte told him ‘no no’ and went to try and exit the stairwell, he said.

Mr Zambrano ran after her to look for her and said that the next thing he remembered was ‘the impact of my body hitting the roof’.

When he ‘woke up’, Mr Zambrano shouted towards the window for Ms Duarte but she never appeared and the windows began to explode from the heat, sending shards of glass showering into the road.

He was rushed to hospital and treated for smoke inhalation but Ms Duarte died at the scene.

Mr Zambrano was told he was lucky to be alive after testing his blood’s carbon monoxide levels and he said he coughed up black soot for six hours.

Saying that he is still ‘hurting’ from his loss, Mr Zambrano and Ms Duarte’s mother Maria Frasquilho Macarro are working with the London Fire Brigade to raise awareness about e-bikes and lithium battery fires.

This, they say, is the fastest growing type of fire in the capital.

Ms Duarte will be remembered as a ‘fun-loving’ daughter who enjoyed dancing, spending time with friends and travelling

The 21-year-old died in the horror e-bike fire. Pictured: Damage caused by the fire on the Old Kent Road in south Bermonsdey

The LFB launched their #ChargeSafe campaign in March, partly in response to the youngster’s tragic death.

LFB’s Deputy Commissioner Dom Ellis said: ‘Sofia’s death is a tragedy, and our condolences are with her family and friends. We are working hard to prevent these types of incidents in the future.

‘E-bikes and e-scooters are becoming more common in London and the risk of significant fires is rising too. We want people to travel safely and be aware of the risks that the batteries present as part of our #ChargeSafe campaign.

‘Protect yourself and your loved ones by following our #ChargeSafe tips and by using our Home Fire Safety Checker.

‘Never block your escape route with anything, including e-bikes and e-scooters. The only way to be sure of a legal, safe and reliable e-bike is to buy one in complete form, from a trusted and reputed retailer.

‘The number of incidents our fire crews are attending shows that buying a product from a reputable seller will help protect you, your family and property from bursting into flames – not forgetting the peace of mind it can give.’

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