Melanie Michael, WFLA – TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – When Gil Sanderford shared his story with 8 on your Side, he had one goal in mind. He wanted to warn others.
"If I had not been sitting there, or if we were asleep, this could have ended very differently," Sanderford said "It could have burned our house down."
The Tampa consultant was on his computer recently when he got the shock of his life. As Sanderford was working on his laptop, his MacBook sat just a few inches away. It was charging and turned off at the time.
Seconds later, it began hissing and sparks started to fly. In less than 30 seconds, Sanderford's house was filled with stinky, thick electrical smoke.
"I've never seen anything like that before in my life. All I knew was that I had to grab it, try to get more door locked outside as fast as possible," Sanderford said.
He grabbed the MacBook, with smoke pouring out of it, and got his wife and children outside quickly. The computer was so hot that some of the plastic stuck to his fingertips as he picked it up and rushed out to his back patio. Sanderford wondered what on Earth was happening. It all took place so suddenly, so fast. His laptop had literally caught fire right in front of him.
"Sparks started flying out from underneath the computer," Sanderford said.
Moments later, he began examining the MacBook and realized the fire likely started with the battery. It was a product Sanderford said he purchased at a Batteries Plus on Fletcher Avenue in Tampa.
"From what I understand, Batteries Plus has these manufactured as Rayovac batteries, that's what they told me," Sanderford said.
He took his MacBook to the technicians at the iHospital on Fowler Avenue near the University of South Florida.
The battery had overheated, they said.
"This is the worst I've ever seen," Apple expert Tom Goldscheck said. "You never want to buy after market batteries for them. A lithium ion battery can literally explode at any time. You're causing your computer or phone to be a ticking time bomb."
8 On Your Side immediately reached out to Batteries Plus, asking for a response. A corporate spokesperson said company officials had been in contact with Sanderford and that steps were being taken to make things right. "Batteries Plus Bulbs always puts the safety of its customers first and, as such, we take this matter very seriously. We are in direct contact with the customer," the spokesperson said.
Sanderford was told by Batteries Plus that they are, indeed, making good on their promise. He has been told that the company will purchase a new MacBook, a new hard drive and even a new dining room table to replace the one that was scorched.
"I appreciate the news coming out here and doing the story. I want to warn other people. It's scary. It's really scary. I'm just glad I was home when this happened. I know my house could have caught on fire," Sanderford said.