The tragic fire ignited by a malfunctioning hoverboard that claimed the life of a child last week just took another. Now, a federal investigation has been launched to look into the deaths.
According to local reports, Savannah Dominick, age 10, died on Thursday as a result of burns covering 95 percent of her body suffered in the blaze. The first victim of the fire, Ashanti Hughes, age 3, died on the night of the fire.
Although a number of hoverboard fires have been reported over the past couple of years in the U.S. and internationally, this incident marks the first confirmed death in the United States due to a hoverboard fire incident.
As a result, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission has launched an investigation. The agency’s efforts will focus on whether or not the hoverboard was one of the brands covered in the massive hoverboard recall last year.
That recall was specifically related to hoverboards containing batteries and internal mechanisms that had not been safety-checked by UL, an independent product safety testing lab. Since the recall, the UL’s enacted a safety check protocol specifically targeting hoverboards. But by the time that protocol was launched, swaths of potentially unsafe hoverboards had already been sold.
The recent hoverboard fire deaths have also drawn the attention of Senators Robert P. Casey, Jr. (Pennsylvania) and Amy Klobuchar (Minnesota), who together sent an open letter to the acting chairwoman of the CPSC, Ann Marie Buerkle, on Wednesday.
“While we understand that according to CPSC data this was the first fatal fire caused by a hoverboard, the dangers of defective hoverboard batteries are well known,” the letter states. “We urge you to identify whether the hoverboard involved was included in the July 2016 recall … based on the results of its investigation, CPSC should consider whether the July 2016 recall needs to be expanded and if the current voluntary standard adequately protects consumers.”
“My thoughts and prayers are with the two children,” Buerkle said in a statement on Thursday. “An important part of our investigation is determining the make and model of the hoverboard. We want to know whether the hoverboard was a previously recalled model or a different model that would need further analysis by CPSC technical staff. I urge consumers who own a hoverboard to check to see if it has been recalled.”
Although it’s now clear that hoverboards were mostly a passing fad, at one point the devices became so popular—pushed on TV and social media by pro athletes and music stars alike—that airlines and mass transit services were forced to ban the devices over safety concerns.
Prior to these two deaths, a large number of media reports revealed the dangers of unregulated hoverboards and the fires that resulted from the devices, but there’s no way to know how many consumers may still have unsafe hoverboards in their homes.
And while the Samsung Galaxy Note7 exploding battery debacle was completely unrelated in terms of manufacturing, that series of widely publicized events may have helped more consumers to take battery safety a bit more seriously.