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Hoverboard Blamed for Pennsylvania Home Fire that Leads to 3 Deaths

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On Friday evening, March 10, 2017, a fire broke out on in a row house on Lexington Street in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. When firefighters arrived on the scene, they reported heavy smoke and fire on the first floor. A neighbor would later tell Fox News that the home became engulfed in “wind-whipped flames” with people yelling, “The kids are in the house!”

The fire would claim the lives of two children and a local fire official who was on his way to the scene. Authorities have reported that the fire was likely started by a faulty battery in a hoverboard that was recharging at the time of the incident.

Though the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) announced a recall of about 501,000 “self-balancing scooters/hoverboards” in July 2016 because of potentially faulty batteries, many of these products still remain in homes throughout the country, while other “knock-off” brands are still being sold.

Hoverboard Blamed for Fire that Claims Three Lives

Fire officials stated that one victim of the fire jumped from the second floor to safety, while fire crews rescued two other young girls, as well as a father and his teenage son. Though the father and his son were unharmed, three girls were rushed to the local hospital, and then transferred to Lehigh Valley burn center in Allentown, Pennsylvania.

One three-year old girl was pronounced dead at the hospital after the fire. A second child, only 10 years old, who reportedly tried to help her siblings escape the fire, died less than a week later of severe burns. A third child remains in the hospital.

Firefighter Lt. Dennis DeVoe, a 21-year-old veteran, was responding to the fire when a stolen vehicle rammed through a stop sign and hit his vehicle on the passenger side. The driver was later charged with aggravated assault while driving under the influence, but DeVoe, who was also rushed to the hospital, later died of his injuries.

CPSC Investigates Potentially Faulty Lithium-Ion Batteries

Authorities stated that the fire was ruled accidental and attributed to the hoverboard, which was recharging on the first floor. The family reported hearing crackling and sizzling from the product, after which it exploded in flames.

The CPSC is working with the fire department to confirm the cause, and to figure out if the hoverboard in question was one of those recalled last July. If authorities do, indeed, link the fire to the hoverboard, these would be the first deaths in the country determined to be caused by the faulty hoverboard batteries. Yet this is one of 60 alleged hoverboard-related fires that the agency has investigated.

In the July 2016 recall, the agency noted that the lithium-ion battery packs in these hoverboards “can overheat, posing a risk of the products smoking, catching fire and/or exploding.” They encouraged consumers to contact the recalling companies, which included Digital Gadgets, Hoverboard LLC, Hype Wireless, Keenford Ltd., PTX Performance Products, Razor USA, Swagway LLC, and Yuka Clothing.

They further encouraged consumers to stop using these products and to ask for a full refund, free repair, or free replacement, depending on the model. The affected hoverboards were sold June 2015 through May 2016 for between $350 and $900, at retail stores like Boscov’s and from online retailers like Overstock.

The CPSC also advised consumers to purchase only hoverboards certified as safe by Underwriters Laboratories. Those who are unsure if their products are under recall can call the consumer hotline at 800-638-2772. The agency reported in 2016 that roughly 99 hoverboard battery-related incidents had allegedly resulted in reports of injury.

Personal injury attorneys are now investigating cases of severe injuries and/or burns caused by a malfunctioning hoverboards.