Emily Smith, 26, from Hull, was in her newly-purchased Renault Scenic with her daughter Emmy-Leigh, three, and son Joseph, 11 weeks, along with a friend and her child when the car burst into flames
A mum has revealed how she was forced to make the impossible choice between which of her two children to save first when her car “exploded” in a shopping centre car park.
Emily Smith was left facing every parent’s worst nightmare when her newly-purchased Renault Scenic burst into flames with both her kids strapped inside ‘seconds from death
The 26-year-old had just been shopping at Tesco with daughter Emmy-Leigh, three, and son Joseph, 11 weeks, along with a friend and her one-year-old child when disaster struck and left the women screaming for help.
“When I pressed the start button, the car just burst into flames,” Miss Smith told Hull Live .
“Smoke started coming from the foot well near the clutch and then under the bonnet. Suddenly flames started coming from underneath the car.
“I was in absolute shock and luckily a man walking past threw his bottle of coke over the flames in the foot well so I could get out, and everything else is a bit of a blur.”
The two women started screaming for help as Miss Smith was suddenly faced with the impossible decision of which child to get out of their car seat first.
My three-year-old was screaming and she was aware of what was happening so I grabbed her seatbelt first and threw her at this woman passing by,” she said.
“The baby was still asleep and the seatbelt had become tangled in the back of his car seat and no matter how hard I was pulling I couldn’t get him out.
“The car seat was starting to melt because of the heat and in the end I just unbuckled him and ran with him out of the car.
That’s when the car started making explosion noises and the whole thing went up in flames. We were seconds from death.”
St Stephen’s shopping centre in Hull was evacuated after a fire took hold in the car park on March 4.
It is thought an electrical fault may have caused the fire but the car was too badly damaged for a definitive answer.
Miss Smith’s mum was riding past St Stephen’s on the bus at the time of the fire and called her to tell her to avoid parking in Tesco.
When she answered the phone “in hysterics”, her mother jumped off the bus at the next stop and ran to save her grandchildren
My three-year-old was being sick for days after and was passing tar-like stools, and the baby was also covered in a red rash from the smoke”, said Miss Smith, who attended A&E with the children to make sure they were okay.
But after all this horror, I want people to know what danger we were put in. I couldn’t live with myself if I didn’t speak out.”
Miss Smith had bought the Renault Scenic 32 days earlier for £950 from Auto Touch after seeing an advert on Facebook Marketplace for the 2007 vehicle.
Miss Smith has received £300 as a gesture of goodwill but is hoping to get a full refund.
Miss Smith was awarded a pay-out by her insurance company for the car but after paying her £475 excess fee has been left out of pocket.
Everything in that car was for my children, and I don’t just have the money to buy new things,” she said.
“Tesco were amazing with me, and refunded the shopping I had lost in the fire, and one staff member even paid £15 out of her own pocket to reimburse me for the toys I had bought from The Entertainer.
“I can’t thank everyone enough for how they helped, and I want to thank the passers-by who took my children out of harm’s way.
A spokesman for Auto Touch, situated on the corner of Spring Bank West and Walton Street, said: “We have offered the family £300 as a goodwill gesture, and we understand how awful the experience of this fire must have been for them.
“We have done everything we can to help them. We are a new business and we are not here to make problems, we offer great customer service and we want to make sure all our customers are happy.
“If Miss Smith contacted us straight away we would have been able to provide more as we have insurance to cover it, but she has already been through her own insurance.
“We would urge Miss Smith to get back in touch with us if she feels there is anything more we can help with, but we have done what we needed to do by offering her the £300.”
A spokeswoman for Hull City Council said: “The Trading Standards team has received a complaint from the consumer regarding this incident and the matter is now subject to an investigation.”