A man from Cambridge has spoken for the first time, after his partner and two young children were killed in a fire caused by an e-bike less than three months ago.
Speaking exclusively to Greatest Hits Radio, 30-year-old Scott Peden has given his account of the tragedy that took place at his home on Sackville Close in the early hours of 30th June. 31-year-old Gemma Germeney, 8-year-old Lily Peden, 4-year-old Oliver Peden and their two dogs all lost their lives that night.
Scott used his e-bike to commute to work and left it charging overnight underneath his staircase. After the original battery which powered the device was stolen, he replaced it with one he found on eBay. Scott spent over a month in hospital after the fire and nearly lost his life. He was only discharged last month.
At around 12:45am, Scott and his partner jumped out of bed after being woken by an “almighty bang coming from downstairs. Before I could get out of my bedroom, I could see a massive glow of orange coming from the bottom of the stairs. I noticed there were flames coming from downstairs, reaching all the way up to the roof, engulfing my entire staircase.”
“There was bits of metal stuck in the wall with fire basically dripping out of them. And at that point I realised there was no way of getting downstairs.”
Both of Scott’s children had woken up by this point and panic ensued as they tried to work out what to do. He went to the bedroom window to scream for help, but quickly realised no one was around.
“I thought I could sort it out. So I jumped out the window while my missus went to keep the kids calm.”
Scott suffered breaks to his foot from the impact of his landing, but managed to make it to the back door of the two-storey maisonette. He entered the building and quickly realised the fire was coming from his e-bike.
“It was honestly spitting out like a flamethrower engulfing the whole stairs. I immediately went to kick the charger out of the bike, burning my feet, causing burns all up my neck, all up my arm, because I was less than 30cm away from the flames.”
The heat and toxic fumes were too intense. His next option was to move the bike out of the front door.
“I grabbed the door handle and it was red hot. I ended up with bad burns all through the middle of my hands. As I tried to turn the key in the handle, the key started to bend in the lock. It was basically melting. I realised we were all trapped in the house. I shouted up to my partner Gemma: ‘It’s the bike! It’s the bike! We’ve got to get out this house!’ I started calling to my partner to jump out the window, and throw the kids out the window. I heard her basically scream ‘I can’t’, with a choking voice.
“That was the last I ever heard of any of them…there was literally nothing I could do. Everything had gone silent. There was black smoke pouring out from the window.”
The fire quickly engulfed the downstairs living room, with windows smashing with the intense heat and smoke.
“The next thing I remember is someone jumping over the wall and patting me down – apparently I was on fire…my pyjamas and part of my skin was on fire.”
By this point the fire service was on its way. Scott had collapsed in excruciating pain onto the trampoline in his garden.
“The fire department showed up…they grabbed my legs, pulled me off the trampoline, ripping a load of skin off me…apparently my skin had fused to the trampoline.” They put me on the ground and asked me who was in the house…I said ‘my partner, both my kids and both my dogs’. They immediately broke into the house and began to extinguish the fire. There were four/five fire engines and about three ambulances and they couldn’t get down the road. So I had to be treated on the grass just outside my house. I passed out very shortly after a child being put next to me and being pronounced dead.”
Scott was rushed to Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge. After 3 hours of initial treatment, he was transferred to a burns unit at Broomfield Hospital in Chelmsford where he was heavily sedated. On his second day at Broomfield his body temperature spiked to a dangerous level. To cool him down, doctors wrapped him in 25 ice packs for 8 and a half hours. His heart then started going out of rhythm.
“They had to use defibrillators on me multiple times. I was 15% burnt on the inside and 17% burnt on the outside. I also had lithium poisoning from the battery trapped in my lungs, which was causing major issues.”
Scott woke up four weeks after being admitted to hospital, experiencing intense hallucinations due to the high levels of sedation he was under.
“I wasn’t really comprehending things. The sedation had given me strange dreams of a completely different event, in which I was in a train crash and treated in a French hospital, which obviously never happened. The first thing I actually said to my mum was ‘where were we just on holiday?’…my mum explained to me ‘we haven’t been on holiday, you were involved in a bad fire’. It was then my mum told me that my both of my children and my missus had passed in the fire. The drugs gave me some weird hallucinations of seeing my children, seeing my missus, for about a week and a half. It was very disorientating and quite confusing.”
It’s now 87 days since the fire that changed Scott’s life forever. He’s currently living in Ely with his mother and tells us the Council is currently working to find him a new house.
Scott is immobile due to the breaks in his foot, but is now focussing his energy on making sure no one else loses their life to an e-bike or e-scooter.
“The main things that run through my mind is the look of the bike, the flames spitting out of it like a flamethrower. The traumatic sounds of hearing my partner upstairs is still overwhelming.”
Scott believes more awareness is needed on the dangers of the batteries and chargers used with the devices.
“No one before my accident knew of the dangers of these bikes. I never knew not to charge them overnight. If I’d known this, I wouldn’t have charged it overnight. And if I did charge it overnight, I wouldn’t have put it under the stairs or near the only exit in my house. E-bikes are great things to have, but absolutely devastating when they go wrong. The lithium that fills them is toxic.”
Scott’s experience on 30th June lasted no longer than 10 minutes.
“That’s all it took from my partner and my kids to succumb to the gas. It wasn’t smoke that killed them, it was the lithium poisoning and the toxic-ness of the batteries. I don’t want it to wipe out another family. My best two pieces of advice are do not charge it overnight and, if possible, charge it in a garage or shed.
“My house is absolutely destroyed. The stairs have been taken down to the skeleton, the plasterboard has been ripped off the wall. I have no roof in my house…its bare bones…everything upstairs is covered in lithium smoke. I’ve lost everything from that one bike. I have the same amount now as the day I was born.”
Source: Planet Radio