HARLEM — A black BMW burst into flames on a Harlem street Wednesday night, sending fire through the engine and forcing its occupants to flee.
Marie Dominique Pierre-Jen, 41, a supervisor for child support for the city, was driving her car near 125th Street and St. Nicholas Avenue just before 11 p.m. on July 4 when she noticed smoke coming from the hood.
"I heard pops. When I saw smoke coming from the front, I said this doesn't look right, my car don't smoke. I've never had any car problems," she said after escaping the vehicle with her brother, Patrick.
"I thought maybe because it's so hot and I got the AC blowing, but my brother said, 'No, there's a fire, get out.'"
Fire officials at the scene said the blaze was extinguished by 11:15 p.m. No one was hurt.
"We thought the car was overheating," said Patrick Pierre-Jen, 45. "I saw flames coming out of the front.
"You couldn't feel it in the car," he continued, "It was when I got outside I saw the fire. It took a matter of minutes" for the car to completely catch on fire.
"I'm lucky for my life," Patrick added. "If we were on the highway, this car would have blown up."
His sister said she she bought the car two years ago.
Ravi Kalathur, a biology researcher at Columbia University, said he was just getting out of an A train subway station nearby when he saw the car slow down and stop at the corner.
"She was just driving, and then there was fire," Kalathur said. "And she slowed down and then the fire increased and she got out of the car. There was black smoke everywhere. The metal was melting, the plastic was melting."