A lithium-ion battery exploded in Brooklyn earlier this month and within moments three generations of the West family — Albertha West, 81, her son Michael West, 58, and her grandson Jamiyl West, 33 — were surrounded by flames.
The tragedy of that swift and sudden loss drew hundreds of wellwishers and mourners to the Beulah Church of Nazarene on Monday, where crowds filled the nave and spilled into an attached gymnasium in search of answers to the three senseless deaths.
“Why, why, why?” lamented Pastor Edmund Osorio before the assembled mourners. “I can hear the question echoing in this room. Why did this have to happen? Why didn’t the battery have a mechanism where it would shut off when fully charged?”
The Wests were at their Albany Ave. home near Park Place in Crown Heights when a lithium-ion battery exploded at 4:30 a.m. on Nov. 12.
The fast-moving fire swept through the building and firefighters battled the blaze for more than two hours before calling the all-clear around 6:30 a.m., an FDNY spokesman said.
Firefighters found all three victims unconscious inside the building. They were rushed to Kings County Hospital, but could not be saved.
Amber West, granddaughter of Alberta West by her first son, spoke in eulogy of the late family matriarch, praising her grandmother as “a woman of quiet strength.”
Born in Bennettsville, South Carolina, Alberta West married Henry Isaiah West. Sr. in 1960, with whom she gave birth to four sons, according to her granddaughter.
Albertha retired after working 40 years as head chef at the Children’s Aid Society at the Fredrick Douglass Head Start Center, but she sustained her love of cooking through endless family functions and holiday parties, where she dispensed wisdom while laboring over the stove, according to Amber West.
“Most of the conversations happened in the kitchen,” the granddaughter said. “My grandma wouldn’t say much but when she spoke you listened.”
Michael West is survived by his three children, Joseph, Lance and Trinece, according to Amber West. He was a fervent Knicks and Giants fan and a devoted father. He loved to read, grill, and carried a “twinkle in his eye,” she said.
Jamiyl West worked security at a Bank of America’s Midtown headquarters, and frequented his grandmother’s Crown Heights home in search of her delicious cooking, according to his life long friend.
“He would stop by the West homestead regularly to check on his family and eat his grandmother’s delicious cooking,” said Anisa Bottoms.