Bronx man killed in lithium-ion battery fire was recovering from heart surgery
The man killed in a lithium-ion battery fire was recovering from heart surgery when the blaze tore through his Bronx apartment building.
Michael Thornton, 64, was in his sixth-floor apartment in the 40-unit residential building on Olinville Ave. near Thwaites Place in Allerton when the fire erupted around 4:05 p.m. Saturday, officials said.
“He just had heart surgery [with] a stent put in,” the man’s niece, Lethea Thornton, told the Daily News. “He was doing OK. He had a new lease on life after the surgery.”
Several batteries were found in the hallway of his apartment, according to an FDNY source, though multiple family members told The News they do not believe Thornton had e-bikes.
“This is all so shocking,” said Lethea Thornton. “He walked with a cane.”
The loving uncle and retired IBM employee would often text the woman to check in.
“He played the piano since he was a kid,” she said. “He was very bubbly. He loved family. He was the baby brother.”
Thornton was a Bronx native. He never had any children of his own.
“He was always happy,” Lethea Thornton said. “[He] always recognized holidays, birthdays. He was a family man.”
Thornton was at least the third New Yorker to be killed in a lithium-ion battery fire this year. In the first 10 weeks of this year, the batteries — which are often used in electric bikes and scooters — have been the cause of 33 fires that injured 42 people.
“I am definitely surprised,” said Thornton’s nephew, Westley Thornton. “I did not expect this. I’m at a loss for words.”