Tragic Hoverboard House Fire in Pennsylvania Claims Three Lives

March 21, 2017

The total number of lives claimed in a fire sparked by an explosive hoverboard in central Pennsylvania has now climbed to three, including two sisters, ages 3 and 10, and a fire department officer who crashed while responding to the scene of the fire. These are believed to be the first hoverboard-related deaths.

Even before the deadly fire on March 10, hoverboards proved to be a major threat to consumers. Half a million hoverboards from 11 companies have been recalled by the Consumer Product Safety Commission. The recalls are due largely to the fact that hoverboards overheat while recharging and, thus, present a fire and explosion risk.

Hoverboards are essentially self-balancing scooters without handlebars. They look like skateboards, but typically contain components like gyroscopes, microprocessors, motors and rechargeable batteries. Hoverboards have become increasingly popular since 2015. Several celebrities, including Justin Bieber, Nick Jonas, Kendall Jenner and Skrillex, have helped popularize these devices, which have continued to sell in large quantities despite recalls and concerns from consumer safety advocates.

Why Hoverboards are So Dangerous

The batteries powering hoverboards are rechargeable. These lithium ion batteries have been the cause of fires and explosions of several kinds of devices, which, in addition to hoverboards, include smartphones, laptops and e-cigarettes. Lithium ion batteries can generate more power for their size than other, more conventional batteries.

When a lithium ion battery is faulty, it can overheat and combust. This often occurs while the battery is charging. Investigators in the March 10 fire in Pennsylvania have preliminarily attributed the tragic incident to the overheating of the hoverboard during its charging cycle, though they will continue to investigate the cause.

Lithium ion batteries used in smartphones or other handheld devices are relatively small, and while an explosion or fire generated from these smaller devices can cause great harm, the lithium ion batteries in hoverboards are significantly larger. That means that when they explode, the explosions and fires are much bigger and pose a much larger threat.

Hasty Manufacturing Led to Dangerous Hoverboards

The home fire in Pennsylvania was not the first caused by overheated hoverboards. In 2015, a Louisiana family lost their home in a fire started by a hoverboard. The fire, which started while the hoverboard was charging, began after flames shot out from both ends of the device.

Most hoverboards are made in China, specifically in the city of Shenzhen, which BuzzFeed called the “hoverboard manufacturing capital of the world.” There are roughly 1,000 factories in the Shenzen region. They vary in price from $300 to $1,800. The haste in which these devices have been released to consumers was fueled by a huge global demand. Manufacturers have been pumping out large numbers of hoverboards with vastly insufficient quality control.

Despite major safety concerns and several product recalls, hoverboards continue to present a major threat to consumers. Tragedies like the one here in Pennsylvania happened because manufacturers did not ensure the safety of their products. Unfortunately, consumers are the ones who suffer the consequences of their negligence.

At Wapner Newman, we are proud to stand up against the negligence of the manufacturers and distributors of faulty products. If you or a loved one has suffered injuries because of a defective product, contact us today to schedule a free consultation and learn more about your legal options.