Toddler's Death Is First in US Linked to Hoverboard Fires: CPSC

The Consumer Product Safety Commission has investigated more than 60 fires since fall 2015

Hoverboards have long been considered a fire hazard, but this weekend brought the first death in the United States linked to the popular gadgets, and it may lead to another round of recalls.

A toddler died Friday in a fire possibly sparked by a charging hoverboard in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, according to the local fire department. The Consumer Product Safety Commission, which oversees U.S. product safety guidelines, has been warning about the dangers of the toy for a year and a half. 

“This issue goes back to fall of 2015,” said CPSC communications director Scott Wolfson. “We have long recommended that consumers not charge them overnight. They should not be charged in an area not observed by the consumer and they should have a fire extinguisher nearby.”

The CPSC is now working to open a federal investigation into the fire that led to the girl's death, Wolfson said. CPSC has investigated more than 60 fires since fall 2015.

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Hoverboards first hit the market in 2014, according to Wired. Quickly, people began reporting the two-wheeled self-balancing scooters were catching fire, prompting a warning from the CPSC in February 2016. By July, more than 500,000 hoverboards were recalled nationwide due to exploding batteries.

The hoverboard that sparked the Harrisburg fire was plugged in before it caught fire on Friday night.

The Lehigh County coroner’s office pronounced toddler Ashanti Hughes dead around midday on Saturday morning. Authorities said she was 3 years old, but family told NBC News she was just shy of her third birthday.

Two other children, Savannah and Raelynn Wolfe, were severely injured as well.

"I'm so mad," Laina Wolfe, mother of Savannah and Raelynn, told the "Today" show. "I can't replace a child. There's no replacing my baby, ever." 

Authorities haven't identified the brand of the hoverboard that caught fire.

If it was a previously recalled model, the tragic death of the toddler could cause the CPSC to re-announce a recall, Wolfoson said. If it was not previously recalled the CPSC will take a “closer look” at the model.

Despite Hughes' death, the overall safety of hoverboards has increased since last year, when CPSC announced that there were no safe models of hoverboards on the market. 

Underwriters Laboratories, EXPLANATION, established a fire-safety standard for hoverboards that the CPSC has endorsed.

“If a consumer is in the market for a new hoverboard, we strongly recommend that they look for a label that shows the product complies with UL 2272,” Wolfson said.

Wolfson also stressed that it is not too late to recall a hoverboard model that was flagged in July.

Ten hoverboard companies were involved in that recall. They offered refunds or replacement batteries that complied with the UL 2272 safety standard.

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