Lithium-ion batteries explode at Forest Hills bike shop while Hazmat team was removing them: FDNY

FDNY fire inspectors discovered nearly 300 illegal lithium-ion batteries in a Forest Hills bike shop last week. Several exploded while Hazmat teams were removing them.
Photo courtesy of the FDNY

FDNY fire marshals arrested the manager of a Forest Hills bike shop last week after several lithium-ion batteries exploded while they were being removed from the store by Hazmat units.

Wei Chen of Wilson’s E-Bike Shop, located at 101-19 Queens Blvd., was taken into custody just after 3 p.m. on Monday, Apr. 29, after inspectors from the FDNY’s Bureau of Fire Prevention conducting a third inspection at the shop found 80 micro-mobility devices staged on the first floor and in a basement storage area.

Wei Chen became the second person to be arrested by FDNY fire marshals for illegal lithium-ion batteries this year. Photo courtesy of the FDNY

The devices were brand new, used or in a state of ongoing repair. Additionally, inspectors located two orange toolboxes containing 282 individual lithium-ion battery cells in a work area and opened wrappers of individual battery cells.

Photo courtesy of the FDNY

Chen was transported to the 112th Precinct in Forest Hills for arrest processing and arraigned in Queens Criminal Court the following day on a criminal complaint charging him with multiple counts of reckless endangerment.

Firefighters from Squad 288, Engine 305, Haz-Mat Battalion and Battalion 46 responded to the scene after inspectors issued three summonses.

Photo courtesy of the FDNY

Members of Squad 288 removed the two orange toolboxes and began to pack the 282 individual lithium-ion cells into Haz-Mat drums when several batteries went into “thermal runaway and exploded,” and flames occurred, resulting in a fire that had to be extinguished, according to the criminal complaint.

Photo courtesy of the FDNY

The inspector also accused Chen of illegally manufacturing the lithium-ion cells because they were glued together, noting that batteries manufactured legally do not possess glue, according to the criminal complaint.

The bike shop also posed a threat to public safety due to its location. Fire inspectors noted that Wilson’s is next door to a convenience store and a Chinese restaurant with customers coming and going, and both establishments share the basement with Wilson’s E-Bike Shop. Inspectors added that the bike shop is located approximately 50 feet away from a subway station on Queens Boulevard.

This was the second arrest made by FDNY fire marshals related to lithium-ion batteries. Chen was ordered to return to court on June 17.