A family is taking legal action after their house was destroyed in a blaze caused by an exploding hoverboard.
The three children inside the Chiem family house in Bradford, West Yorkshire, when the hoverboard burst into flames were lucky to escape alive.
Tony Chiem, aged nine, and Karen Chiem, aged eight, were playing with the device with their friend Jibril Faris, age 13, when the explosion occurred.
Mother Thu Tram and husband Vinh Hung Chiem have now instructed product liability experts at law firm Irwin Mitchell to investigate the failure of the hoverboard, and seek redress for the injuries and losses caused.
The couple bought the Airunner hoverboard from the Costco in Leeds, last November, for £279.99.
Just before 9pm, on January 16, minutes after the device had been taken off charge in the living room, it began smoking before erupting into flames, while the three young children were in the house.
Mum Thu had been outside the property at the time, whilst her husband was out at work.
Within minutes smoke completely overwhelmed the downstairs of the house preventing the children from finding the key to escape through the front door.
This forced them upstairs into a bedroom, where they covered the bottom of the door with towels to prevent smoke coming in.
Karen suffered injuries to her foot before Thu managed to enter the property through the front door, sustaining burns to her ear, before helping the children escape through the front door.
All were treated at the Bradford Royal Infirmary after the incident, and were later discharged after being treated for smoke inhalation injuries and shock.
The children continue to have nightmares following the incident and the family home has been left uninhabitable with all of their possessions, including clothing and personal items, destroyed. Stranded, the family are now sharing a single bedroom at a relative’s home, until their property is repaired.
Product liability expert at Irwin Mitchell, Matthew Newbould, is spearheading an investigation into how the hoverboard came to cause the fire, and issued a warning about the dangers of poor safety standards of some hoverboards on the market.
He said: “It’s a miracle that no one was killed in this fire. But although the Chiem family were lucky to escape with just minor injuries, they have been left without a home or any possessions and suffering the long-term impact of the fire. We are now looking to secure them a settlement to help them to rebuild their lives as they try to put this nightmare behind them.
“It is vital that a thorough investigation takes place, not only to provide answers to the Chiem family, but to ensure that the risk of something like this happening to another family is reduced as much as possible. Product safety should be the number one priority but sadly it appears some products in this market have fallen below the acceptable standards.”
Speaking of the lucky escape Thu said: “The children had been desperate for a hoverboard for Christmas so we made sure we were able to buy one.
“They had a lot of fun using it and were thrilled so we never dreamed that something like this would happen.
“The whole thing happened within minutes. One minute the kids were playing in the living room with the boy from next door, the next the board started smoking and the fire started.
“The kids could have been killed. They all believed they were going to die in the fire and are still suffering nightmares.
“We have lost our home. Everything was ruined in the fire. For over a month we’ve been living with relatives and we have no idea how long it will take for us to be back at home. It’s turned our lives upside down.
“We thought we bought a reliable product from a trusted retailer and we want to know how something with so much potential to cause this type of devastation was sold to us.
Hoverboards, also known as ‘swegways’ or ‘e-boards’, were one of the most wanted Christmas presents in December 2015.
Retailers and manufacturers were keen to capitalise on the high demand by reducing prices and some reports suggest that larger retailers were “loss-leading” on hoverboards in order not to lose ground on their competitors.
Matthew Newbould, from Irwin Mitchell, added: “Whilst the more reputable brands achieve very high safety standards, some of the cheaper brands have failed catastrophically, with the worst cases resulting in serious personal injury and extensive damage to property.
“Because hoverboards cannot be used legally on public land, they are commonly used inside, meaning people’s homes are being put at risk.
“It’s too early to say what caused this particular failure but a common cause of failure in these devices is said to be the low quality components used, such as the internal rechargeable lithium-ion batteries, protective casing or the plug and charger.
“It is believed that failure of the Lithium Ion battery can cause the Hoverboard to explode into a self-sustaining fire, which cannot be extinguished without specialist fire-fighting equipment.
“It’s possible that minor bumps to the hoverboard’s protective casing could cause a puncture to the Li-ion battery, but more worryingly we have seen reports of some devices exploding whilst on charge and unattended, as the batteries can overcharge and effectively burst.”
Photo credits: Asadour Guzelian for The Daily Mail