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We’re lucky to be alive, says dad after Vauxhall Zafira car goes up in flames

By Joanne Sweeney

Published 17/10/2015

Co Down couple Laura and Ian Sharratt's car after it went on fire
Co Down couple Laura and Ian Sharratt's car after it went on fire
Laura and Ian Sharratt with their son Dex

A Co Down father has told how he and his son were lucky to escape with their lives after their car burst into flames.

Ian Sharratt has called on Vauxhall to face up to its corporate responsibility after it emerged his Zafira car was one of over 100 cars throughout the UK which owners claim have caught fire.

The burned-out seven-seater was a write-off and the father and son were lucky to escape unscathed in the summer incident.

Other motorists' stories of their Vauxhall Zafiras bursting into flames will be investigated in the BBC's consumer programme Watchdog next week.

The car maker has just announced that it is holding an internal investigation to "determine the root causes of these fires".

Last night, Vauxhall insisted it did not believe that there was a "general safety concern" and it could not confirm how many other complaints may have come from Northern Ireland as the claims were likely to have been dealt with by the customers' insurance companies.

However, Mr Sharratt from Donaghadee said he is still angry that the lives of both himself and his toddler son were put at risk due to an unexplained fault with their 2008 Vauxhall Zafira 1.9 CDTI SRI model.

The 34-year-old was out shopping with Dex (2) in Belfast on July 8 when the fire happened as he travelled along the Dunbar Link.

Neither of them were injured during the fire, but Mr Sharratt had to borrow money from his father in order to buy a replacement car.

The father-of-three told the Belfast Telegraph: "I was out shopping with Dex. We were just driving along and I first smelt and then noticed smoke coming from the dashboard.

"I pulled in and popped the bonnet but didn't see anything and the smoke dissipated.

"But when I got in again, I spotted a flame and grabbed my wee boy and got out.

"A police car was following just behind and an officer tried to use a fire extinguisher on it, but quickly realised that it needed the fire brigade.

"It was really scary and the whole family should have been with me and that's what really worried me afterwards about it," he added.

Mr Sharratt, who works as a bus driver, initially believed that the incident was a one-off, until he spotted a Facebook page called Vauxhall Zafira Car Fires where two mothers who claimed that their cars burst into flames began to compile information about other claims.

He said: "Sue Freemantle who started the page told me last night that 102 people have now contacted her page about the same problem.

"I'm angry that Vauxhall did not treat my claim seriously and I think they should recall this model and face up to their responsibility towards their customers as this model is very popular with families and child care centres.

"It would be nice to get some compensation if a flaw is found, but I'm not hopeful."

Mr Sharratt bought the 2008 model three years ago for £8,000 and he got £4,650 back from his insurance company.

A statement from Vauxhall said: "We are aware of the reports concerning vehicle fires involving right-hand drive versions of the previous-model Zafira (not Zafira Tourer) and have begun an internal investigation to determine the root causes of these fires.

"The safety of our customers is our number one priority and, for the time being, we have no reason to assume a general safety concern."

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