Horror as seven-month pregnant woman forced to flee burning BMW which mysteriously burst into flames on the A19

A mother-to-be and her husband say they are lucky to be alive after their BMW 5 series burst into flames while they were driving along the A19 near Sunderland.

Monday, 21st October 2019, 3:24 pm
Updated Wednesday, 23rd October 2019, 5:00 pm

Eleanor Chapman, 21, and husband Dan feared for the health of their unborn baby, who had been conceived through IVF, following the terrifying ordeal which saw them narrowly escape being engulfed in flames inside their car.

The South Shields couple had been driving southbound on the A19 when the the car engine failed and completely lost power - and within minutes flames had engulfed the vehicle.

Now Dan and Eleanor, who have recently welcomed son Jacob into the world, have been left with no car and seen their insurance premium rocket following the incident.

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Eleanor and Dan Chapman. Right: Their car was engulfed in flames on the A19

The 24-year-old dad says BMW has refused to accept liability or pay any compensation following the incident in July, and the exact cause of the fire remains unknown despite numerous investigations.

Shortly before the fire, Dan, who works for the ambulance service, says his BMW had been recalled to the garage for eight weeks for a fault to be fixed.

The incident comes less than a year since BMW recalled 268,000 UK diesel cars, including the BMW 5 series, were recalled after it was found that glycol leakage from the engine’s exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) cooler could result in burning soot deposits.

“My wife, who was seven months pregnant, and I were driving down the A19 - before this the car had been in for a recall for an EGR fault,” said Dan.

Eleanor and Dan with their newborn son Jacob

“The car lost all power and I managed to pull over. I noticed smoke from out of rear window but didn’t realise the car was actually on fire.

“Luckily there was a highways maintenance van that pulled in behind us.

“The man came out and banged on my window and shouted that we needed to get out. It’s a really busy road so we had originally stayed put thinking it was safer.

“We grabbed what we could but about two and a half minutes after we got out the car was completely engulfed.

Eleanor and Dan Chapman have been together for four years

“We were really worried about the baby because my wife had inhaled some of the fumes but we got them checked over and thankfully everything was fine.

“If it had been someone who hadn’t been as mobile as us or if we’d had the baby and he was in a car seat I really don’t think we would have got out in time.

“It all happened so quickly – we were in absolute shock seeing how quickly it went up.”

BMW sent a courtesy car before stating the fire was not related to the recall and refusing to pay any compensation.

The BMW 5 series went up in flames on the A19

Dan's insurance company also completed a separate investigation and said it was unable to determine the cause of the fire, but that it had started in the engine bay on the left-hand side.

Now the couple, who welcomed their son Jacob into the world just over a week ago, have been left without a car and will pay huge insurance premiums after losing their no claims bonus.

“I’ve never had an accident before in my life," said Dan. “It took me eight years to get my no claims and now it’s gone through something that wasn’t even my fault.

“We’re all uninjured, that’s the main thing – a car can be replaced. But we just feel BMW have just completely disregarded everything, it could have been so much worse.

“I’ve had so many people get in touch after my Facebook post went viral. People have said a similar thing has happened to them and I’ve seen other stories online.”

Dan said he’d never drive a BMW again, adding: “I just want to focus on making people aware of it – that was my main aim in putting the post up.

The car burst into flames minutes after they escaped

“I want people to get their cars checked if they think anything might be wrong.”

BMW says an inspection of Dan’s car when it had been in the garage for the recall tests revealed that the check engine light was on due to a problem relating with the diesel particulate filter (DFP).

The company claims it has no record that the DFP was ever replaced – and BMW says its own investigation ‘strongly indicated’ the particulate filter was the most likely cause of the fire.

A spokesman for BMW said: “We are truly sorry to hear about this incident and understand how stressful the situation must have been for Mr Chapman and his wife. This case is known to us and has been reviewed in full by BMW engineers.

“The cause of the fire in this car does not relate to a manufacturing defect or to the recall actions completed earlier in 2019.

“Since concluding this case we have been in contact with both customer and insurer to outline our findings.

“Should more details relating to our inspection be required by either, we are happy to provide more information.”

The damage to the car following the fire.