Bronx man killed in lithium-ion battery fire recovering from heart surgery

A man who died in a lithium-ion battery fire was recovering from heart surgery when flames engulfed his Bronx apartment building.

Michael Thornton, 64, was in his apartment on the sixth floor of a 40-unit apartment building on Olinville Avenue near Thwaites Place in Allerton when a fire broke out around 4:05 p.m. Saturday, officials said.

“He just had heart surgery. [with] a stent is inserted, ”Lethea Thornton, the man’s niece, told Daily News. “He was all right. After the operation, he had a new life.”

Photographs of Michael Thornton, 64, who died after a fire started by lithium-ion batteries in his apartment building in the Bronx.

Several batteries were found in the hallway of his apartment, according to an FDNY source, although several family members told The News they did not believe Thornton had e-bikes.

“The whole thing is so shocking,” Letea Thornton said. “He walked with a cane.”

A loving uncle and former IBM employee often wrote to the woman to sign up.

“He has been playing the piano since childhood,” she said. “He was very playful. He loved the family. He was the younger brother.”

Photographs of Michael Thornton, 64, who died after a fire started by lithium-ion batteries in his apartment building in the Bronx.

Thornton was a native of the Bronx. He never had his own children.

“He was always happy,” said Letea Thornton. “[He] holidays, birthdays were always recognized. He was a family man.”

Thornton became at least the third New Yorker to die in a lithium-ion battery fire this year. In the first 10 weeks of this year, batteries often used in electric bikes and scooters caused 33 fires, injuring 42 people.

“I’m definitely surprised,” Thornton’s nephew Westley Thornton said. “I didn’t expect this. I have no words.”

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