That stinks: Car explodes when cigarette ignites air freshener

A woman escaped death in a DIY store car park when she lit a cigarette inside her car and an air freshener caused an explosion. 

Sharon Victoria Druitt , 51, went into her car after shopping at B&Q in Essex, UK, where she bought the industrial air freshener. 

There is no suggestion the product was faulty or leaking but gas from the air freshener canister is understood to have been ignited by the lit cigarette.

The doors, roof and windscreen were completely blown out of the Ford Focus in a "very loud bang."

Sharon managed to scramble out of the car after the windscreen hurled 30 feet into the air and all four doors blew off. She is being treated for burns to her arm in Southend Hospital. 

Speaking after the explosion, Sharon said: "I put the air freshener in the backseat, lit a cigarette, turned the engine on then bang." 

She added: "I was on morphine from the moment I left the car park so I had no idea of the damage. 

"The officer said to me 'do you know what you got out of?' and showed me the images of the car after the explosion." 

A man who saw the roof of the car blazing after the explosion said: "I have never heard anything like it. At first we thought it was a terrorist attack because of the world we live in. 

"Then I just heard screams and ran to the car and all the windows were smashed and the doors were buckled. The whole car park is covered in bits of car." 

He said Sharon was left if a deep state of shock as she tried to get back into the car to get her handbag out. The man added: "I said 'no, no, no the roof is on fire,' I basically had to push her to the other end of the car park." 

Sharon's hair is said to have singed as she got out of the car and there was a very strong smell of burning. 

Shocked witness Albert Quixall added on Twitter: "Just missed witnessing car explosion near Southend. 

"Very loud bang. Ford Focus doors, windscreen, roof blown out. B&Q staff rushing to help." 

Police and firefighters were seen at the B&Q car park inspecting the vehicle as the person was treated at the scene. 

Justin Benson-Ryal, Divisional Officer at the fire service said: "Incidents like this are extremely rare, but it is important for everyone to be aware how flammable aerosol cans, such as air fresheners and deodorants, can be. 

"We strongly advise that you not to use an aerosol in a confined space and also you should not smoking during or shortly after use." 

He said "quantities of aerosols" should not be stored in confined spaces nor exposed to sunlight and high temperatures. 

Essex County Fire and Rescue Service later confirmed their investigation found no evidence of a leakage.

East of England Ambulance said: "An ambulance and ambulance officer were sent. 

"They treated one patient of unknown age and gender for minor injuries. 

"The patient was taken to Southend University Hospital." 

A B&Q spokesperson said: “We were sorry to hear of this incident and wish the customer a quick recovery. 

"We understand the product was purchased at the B&Q Southend store."