A toddler was killed over the weekend in a raging Pennsylvania house fire that officials said was sparked by a hoverboard plugged into an electrical outlet for recharging.
If investigators confirm the cause of the Friday night blaze, it would be the first fatality in the U.S. linked to a hoverboard battery problem that has been blamed for scores of fires — including major house fires — since 2015, reported NBC.
Ashanti Hughes, 3, died of complications from burns she received over 95 percent of her body, the coroner ruled. Two other children in the Harrisburg home are in critical condition at a local burn center. Firefighter Lt. Dennis DeVoe, who raced to the scene to battle the blaze, was killed in a car crash involving a driver allegedly under the influence. A teenager and two adults in the home also suffered minor injuries.
At a Saturday press conference, Harrisburg Fire Chief Brian Enterline said the fire was started by a recharging hoverboard on the first floor of the three-story home, PennLive reported. Family members “heard some sizzling and crackling in the hoverboard and shortly thereafter it exploded in flames,” Enterline said.
Enterline called the incident an “extremely devastating night.”
More than 500,000 hoverboards were recalled last year after the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission determined that batteries in 10 Chinese-made models could catch fire and explode. Several airlines and college campuses banned hoverboards shortly after they came on the market because of the problem. A number of damage lawsuits were also filed against manufacturers whose products were linked to house fires.
The problem with the devices lies in their lithium-ion batteries, which include a flammable electrolyte. The batteries in hoverboards are particularly powerful because they move people, and defects can cause more serious fires.
Many manufacturers are using “second-tier battery sources which are going to have probably a higher rate of defects,” Carnegie Mellon engineering professor Jay Whitacre told NPR in late 2015. In a hoverboard, with “more energy in a small space ... if something does go wrong, it’s a bit more catastrophic.”
Consumer officials are examining the Pennsylvania blaze. A spokesman told NBC that the commission had investigated more than 60 fires linked to the motorized boards since 2015.