Grenfell firefighter’s BMW bursts into flames during drive home from school

A Grenfell firefighter whose BMW burst into flames on the school run has been locked in a bitter row with the manufacturer which is refusing to accept any responsibility for what happened.

The terrifying incident occurred when Aaron Gauci, 38, picked his son Isaac up from school on October 31 last year.

He was driving his two-year-old 335d M Sport salon in slow moving traffic when smoke began to pour inside.

The father of two from Chessington explained he was in the outside lane when the speaker started to make ‘strange noises’.

A Grenfell firefighter’s two-year-old BMW 335d M Sport burst into flames with his son inside

Aaron Gauci (pictured with his son Isaac and daughter Elena, 14) was driving in slow moving traffic when smoke began to pour inside

Aaron Gauci (pictured with his son Isaac and daughter Elena, 14) was driving in slow moving traffic when smoke began to pour inside

‘I could see a haze behind the car and when I looked at the front there was smoke. I knew exactly what was happening. I made sure I didn’t put the windows down because I didn’t want to fan the fire with air.

‘I managed to pull over to the pavement, jumped out and got my son. I could already see flames.’

After taking his son a safe distance from the vehicle, he attempted to retrieve personal items including from the boot. ‘But it was already on fire,’ he said.

The blaze gutted the car in a matter of minutes and the wreckage was taken to a salvage yard in Canvey Island.

Following the fire, Mr Gauci, who has fully comprehensive insurance, said he notified BMW and his insurance company, Admiral.

His ‘dream’ £30,000 car had just 18,000 miles on the clock, was under warranty and had been fully serviced by BMW.

So he expected a more sympathetic response – and a replacement car.

Instead, he claims the best it could do was offer him £4,000 towards a replacement BMW as a ‘goodwill gesture’ and advise him to claim with his insurance company.

 The blaze gutted the car in a matter of minutes, forcing the 38-year-old and son Isaac to leap to safety

 The blaze gutted the car in a matter of minutes, forcing the 38-year-old and son Isaac to leap to safety

Despite conceding that its own inspections of the burnt out wreckage had proved inconclusive, Mr Gauci said the German car giant insisted the fire was not due to a fault with the car.

It told the Mail it was ‘categorically not’ linked to the faulty ‘Exhaust Gas Recirculation cooler’ which has forced it to issue a safety recall for 268,000 cars in the UK.

Instead the firefighter said BMW told him the most likely cause was a fuel leak.

Mr Gauci – who has been a firefighter for 18 years and was called to Grenfell tower on the following three days after the blaze – said: ‘I immediately laughed and told them it wasn’t possible.’

‘It is almost impossible to set fire to diesel unless it’s compressed in an engine. But even if, by some freak miracle it did catch fire because it had leaked on the engine, surely that is a manufacturing problem?’

Diesel is far less volatile than petrol and ignites at a much higher temperature. 

Immediately dissatisfied, Mr Gauci asked for a copy of the report, but he claims BMW refused to hand it over. 

What has happened then has only made him more determined.

When he asked again for the report last month, the firefighter said BMW told him it was arranging for a further inspection ‘with technical colleagues from Germany’.

Mr Gauci insisted that his own inspector to be present, but was told the inspection would be on a ‘closed site’ so this would not be allowed.

Two days later learned that his car had been taken from the salvage yard without his knowledge or permission.

Initially, the father-of-two says the company refused to tell him where it had taken the car.

But after he reported his car stolen, BMW finally agreed to give him the location.

Mr Gauci was called to Grenfell Tower in the following days of the blaze in June 2017

Mr Gauci was called to Grenfell Tower in the following days of the blaze in June 2017

It also agreed that his own inspector could examine the wreckage, but only under the supervision of a BMW technician.

Again it failed to identify a cause for the fire. The firefighter said BMW has advised him to make a claim through his insurance company, Admiral.

But the firm is only prepared to pay out thousands of pounds less than the car is worth, and is likely to push up his insurance premium, he says.

Mr Gauci said he took out a loan to buy his ‘dream car’ from a dealer at the end of 2016 after spending months hunting for one with the right specifications and extras.

‘This car was my baby. I’m only a firefighter so I don’t have much money. It was a treat to cheer myself up. My wife left nearly five years ago, so it’s been a rough few years.’

He added: ‘It is mind boggling the way BMW has behaved. If my car had had three young children strapped in the back and mum driving it could have ended very differently. I can’t understand how they can dismiss this.’

MailOnline has approached BMW for further comment. 

Q&A: BMW and the firetrap risk

What’s the problem?

The fault means droplets of hot blue Glycol coolant can, in some instances, leak inside the cooler where exhaust gases flow. 

This forms tiny, hot particles within the exhaust gas which can then come into contact with the manifold wall – around the air inlet to the engine. 

These particles can smoulder and, in extreme cases, cause fire.

Which models?

BMW is recalling 1.6million cars worldwide and 268,000 in the UK. Twelve models are affected, including the 3 Series, 4 Series, 5 Series, 6 Series X3, X4, X5 and X6 models fitted with four-cylinder engines between December 2014 and August 2016. 

The same models fitted with six- cylinder diesel engines made between July 2012 and June 2015 are also affected, along with some models of the 1 Series, 2 Series, 7 Series and X1 built as early as 2010.

I have one of those – what should I do?

Many car owners will have received a safety recall letter, urging them to contact their local BMW garage. 

On some models, the garage will automatically replace the EGR cooler. In others, it will inspect the component for damage and only replace it if there is a leak.

Those who have yet to receive a letter should visit the DVSA website and tap in their registration number to see if the car has been recalled.

How long will it take?

It could take months. One driver was told he could not get an appointment until August. BMW said those most at risk are being dealt with first.