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New father describes his narrow escape from car explosion in Hellesdon

PUBLISHED: 13:28 14 September 2016 | UPDATED: 08:09 15 September 2016

Firefighters at the scene of the car fire on Reepham Road. Picture: Spot that Dog! @ooBeeB 2h

Firefighters at the scene of the car fire on Reepham Road. Picture: Spot that Dog! @ooBeeB 2h

Archant

This is the moment the father of a one-week-old child watched in shock as his car burst into flames on a busy Hellesdon junction.

The dramatic scene unfolded after the vehicle – a 2005 Smart Car – burst into flames in front of the Reepham Road traffic lights, at the Boundary.

Matthew McAuley, of Lenwade, the vehicle’s driver, remarkably escaped unscathed as he was able to get out of the car before the blaze engulfed it.

Emergency services were called to the scene shortly before 8am yesterday morning, after a police officer spotted the incident as it happened.

Mr McAuley, 42, said: “I’m absolutely shocked – it’s difficult to believe that a car in this day and age can just catch fire. I was on my way to the supermarket when the engine shut down. I attempted to restart it, then the next thing I knew another motorist pulled up alongside me and told me the car was on fire.”

The car on fire on Cromer Road in Norwich. Photo: Ricky Davidson @ricky_davidsonThe car on fire on Cromer Road in Norwich. Photo: Ricky Davidson @ricky_davidson

The car belongs to Mr McAuley’s partner, with whom he has had his first child, Beau, born just this month. He was borrowing it while his own car, an Audi A5, is in for repairs.

He added: “It all happened so quickly. When I got out the fire was small and I initially thought I would be able to push it to the side of the road. However, within 120 seconds it was completely engulfed.

“It’s fortunate it was just me in the car. I’m trying not to think about what might have happened had my partner or son been there too.

“Everybody is safe – that is the main thing. However it is very frustrating that we are left without the car and everything inside.”

Firefighters extinguish the car fire. Picture: James Field @Jimbob_FieldFirefighters extinguish the car fire. Picture: James Field @Jimbob_Field

A fire crew from Loddon used hose reel jets to extinguish the vehicle.

Police also attended, closing the road and ensuring the scene was safe.

Mr McAuley added: “The police and fire service both did a great job and were very helpful; everybody was very supportive.

“I’m now in discussions with Mercedes who have said they are going to investigate the situation and hopefully we can find a resolution.”

A police officer at the scene said: “The fire started as a small one in the back of the car, but soon spread. The driver was very relaxed considering the situation. His safety is the biggest thing though, and in a way he was lucky that he was at traffic lights when it happened and not moving, as it all happened very quickly.”

Eyewitness David Faulks, a 30-year-old civil servant, said: “I’ve never seen anything like this – I’ve seen burning cars before, but never when a driver has been inside when the fire started.

“The driver himself was actually quite chilled about it; he even took a few pictures.”

Another witness Ben Sturman, 32, said: “I just saw some small flames, then within a few seconds the whole vehicle was alight.”

Norfolk Recovery collected the remains of the car at around 9.15am, and the road reopened to traffic at about 9.45am.

A spokesman for Mercedes-Benz, which manufactures the cars, said: “We are sorry to hear about Mr McAuley’s experience.

“The safety of our customers is paramount and our technical experts are in touch with Mr McAuley to investigate the circumstances.”

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