Poorly made hoverboards risk setting fire to houses after laws banning their use on public land mean they are used more indoors, according to a lawyer representing a family left homeless by a similar incident.
The expert is helping the parents from Bradford launch legal action for damage and injuries caused when a fire sparked by one of the gadgets ripped through their home, trapping their two young children and a friend inside.
Matthew Newbould said it was “vital” that a thorough investigation is carried out into the incident and all of the toys brought up to safety standards to avoid the same happening to another family.
He said: “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.”
Eight-year-old Karen Chiem, her brother Tony, nine, and their friend Jibril Faris, 13, needed hospital treatment after a £280 hoverboard blew up in their living room shortly after it was taken off charge on the evening of January 16.
The toy ignited furniture in the room and the terrified children were forced to seek refuge in an upstairs room as smoke filled the house, preventing them from finding keys to unlock the front door.
The children had been in the house while their mother Thu Tram was outside and her husband, Vinh Hung Chiem, was out shopping.
Mrs Tram suffered burns as she rescued the children from the building and all four were taken to the Bradford Royal Infirmary for treatment for smoke inhalation and shock.
Mr Newbould, a product liability expert at Irwin Mitchell, said it had been a “miracle” no-one was killed in the fire and that they had escaped with only minor injuries.
He said: “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.”
The family bought the toy from a wholesalers in Leeds in November as a Christmas present.
Mrs Tram said: “We never dreamed that something like this would happen.
“The kids could have been killed. They all believed they were going to die in the fire and are still suffering nightmares.”
Mrs Tram said the incident had “turned their lives upside down” and the family was living with relatives in a single bedroom as a result.
She added: “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.”
Mr Newbould said it was too early to say what the exact cause of the fire was, although a common cause in similar incidents is down to low quality components such as the internal rechargeable lithium-ion batteries, protective casing or the plug and charger.
A failure of the battery, possibly resulting from even a minor bump, can cause a self-sustaining fire that needs specialist equipment to extinguish, he added.