Last week on March 11th, tragedy struck the city of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania after a charging hoverboard allegedly overheated and sparked a fire that spread throughout a family’s home. The fire, which quickly engulfed the entire house, claimed the life of 2-year old Ashanti Hughes. To make matters worse, Lieutenant Dennis DeVoe, a firefighter on route to the home was killed by a drunk driver in a stolen vehicle. Ashanti’s father, a teenage boy, and two young girls were also rushed to the hospital for smoke inhalation and other unspecified injuries.
“My granddaughter, I can’t replace her,” Mark Hughes, Ashanti’s grandfather, told reporters. “The pain is deep. I’m so hurt. My soul is hurt.” He went onto warn other families to “be careful with everything you buy and make sure it works right, because if it doesn’t work right, this is going to happen, and you’ll never know when.”
Ashanti’s death marks the first fatality connected to an unstable lithium-ion battery found in hoverboards sold in the United States. In June 2016, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) issued a recall of more than 500,000 of those hoverboards, also known as self-balancing scooters. The recall was announced after the CPSC received 99 “reports of the battery packs in self balancing scooters/hoverboards overheating, sparking, smoking, catching fire and/or exploding.”
Ten companies were affected by last year’s recall including Overstock.com, Boscov’s, Digital Gadgets LLC, Hoverboard LLC, Hype Wireless, Keenford Ltd., PTX Performance Products USA, Razor USA LLC, Swagway LLC, and Yuka Clothing. All of the recalled hoverboard batteries were manufactured in China then sold in the United States. The hoverboards in question were available for purchase from June 2015 to May 2016 for around $350 to $900. Authorities have instructed owners of a recalled hoverboard to stop using them immediately and contact the seller for a refund, repair, or replacement depending on the options laid out by the vendor.
Ashanti’s grandmother, Chaka Crawford, has a different message to consumers who own any brand of hoverboard. “Get rid of them, get rid of them.”
It is not yet clear whether the hoverboard connected to the death of Ashanti Hughes was included in the recall, but the CPSC has opened an investigation to determine if that is the case. If the hoverboard has not been recalled authorities told reporters that they will likely expand the recall to include the model. “We began gathering some information over the weekend” said Scott Wolfson, a CPSC spokesperson. “What we do is try to work with those affected by the incident to gain as much information as possible to recreate the scenario of what occurred, but this family lost a child so we need to respect that.”
To donate to the family of Ashanti Hughes visit: https://www.gofundme.com/chaka-crawford-family
To donate to the family of Dennis DeVoe visit: https://www.gofundme.com/lieutenant-dennis-devoe
To see if your hoverboard was recalled by the CPSC last June see: https://www.cpsc.gov/Recalls/2016/self-balancing-scooters-hoverboards-recalled-by-10-firms