A mum-of-four watched on in horror as her car dramatically went up in flames just minutes after her eight-year-old son discovered smoke coming from the vehicle.
Although distraught that her pride and joy – a Nissan Pathfinder Adverturer DCi – became a burnt-out wreck last Sunday morning (May 7), shaken Faith Stephenson, 49, says the story could have had a much more tragic ending.
Faith, from the Clarence Road area of Leighton Buzzard, had used the 57-reg car the previous day and parked it up at about 6pm oblivious to the drama that would unfold at 9.45am the following morning due what she suspects was an electrical fault.
She recalled: “It was Sunday morning and I was going to take my older son to work and then do a car boot in Aylesbury but I had a cold.
“I was about to get dressed then my eight-year-old Jack came into the house and wanted his scooter. It was in the car so I gave him the keys. He came back and said ‘mum, the car’s full of smoke’.
“My older son Laurence, me, and my neighbour Fred ran out. The neighbour opened the front passenger door and the car was full of brown smoke which was billowing out from under the dash.
“My neighbour ran to get a fire extinguisher and tried to get rid of it, but it kept coming and coming.
“My older son got a washing up bowl of water and threw it in, as the fire extinguisher had finished and wasn’t working.
“We got well back and called the fire brigade and then in the space of two minutes it was engulfed. Fortunately it was a diesel car so it didn’t explode. There was absolute shock in the street. Most just kept out of the way.”
Faith said she could hardly bear to watch her prized possession go up in flames.
She said: “I bought it with money left to me by my aunt who passed away. It was my dream. It was expensive to run, but I loved it. I’d had it a year-and-a-half, it was my baby and to see it go up was absolutely heartbreaking.
“But when you sit down and think about it, it could have been so much worse. My son had been to the car moments early, and also it was parked on the road away from properties as I was planning to go out early to the car boot and didn’t want to disturb people – otherwise it could have taken other cars and the houses here have wood panelling too.
“I have been fortunate that I wasn’t driving it, parked in a busy car park or shopping centre, or at the car boot sale surrounded by people and other cars.”
And she said she wasn’t impressed by Nissan’s response to the incident. “Nissan said they couldn’t be held responsible because they don’t know what work has been done to it,” she said.
“I bought it second-hand from a dealer, but I don’t blame them. Due to the state of the car, the fire service say it was hard to say exactly what had happened.”
Wishing to warn other motorists of her story, she called for car manufacturers to do more: “With all this technology in cars why are they not fitted with smoke alarms? If there had been an early warning I could have called the fire brigade sooner. I’m not after a new Nissan. I don’t ever want a Nissan again! I will get another car as the insurance will pay out.”
A spokesman for Beds Fire and Rescue Service said the cause of the blaze was still under investigation, but added “it could be an electrical fire”.
A Nissan spokesman said: “We can confirm that this customer’s vehicle had a recall completed in November 2012 and that there are not any other recalls outstanding on this vehicle.
“We have recommended that the customer completes a claim with her insurance company as per the normal process and we have nominated a specific case worker to assist her with this process.
“We are committed to the safety of our customers and have taken all the necessary actions in this case.”