Saturday 21 April 2018

Hoverboard explosion family left homeless after blaze destroys house

Family had to flee blaze and are now homeless

Rebecca Black

A grandmother has told how her family had to run for their lives after a Christmas present exploded in their home.

Sharon Massey, her two daughters and her nine-month-old grand-daughter were left homeless after the hoverboard burst into flames.

Photo issued by West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service of the damage caused at a house in Wyke, Bradford, when a charging hoverboard burst into flames. [File photo]
Photo issued by West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service of the damage caused at a house in Wyke, Bradford, when a charging hoverboard burst into flames. [File photo]
Sharon Massey pictured at home, on Ardgowan Street in east Belfast after a hoverboard she bought her daughter for Christmas apparently caught fire while charging

They were sitting together watching TV around 6.50pm on Monday when the gift, which was charging in the corner of the room, suddenly exploded.

"We heard this almighty bang and it burst into flames," Sharon said. It sounded like a bomb.

"The curtains caught fire, then the TV. Within seconds the whole room was alight.

"I had my baby grand-daughter sitting on my knee. I grabbed her and ran out of the door.

"My wee girl was on the phone to the fire brigade crying and saying, 'My house is on fire, everything is destroyed'.

"We haven't slept a wink since - we are traumatised. You never think something like this will happen to you. We have lost everything. We are devastated."

Sharon said that when her family fled their home in east Belfast, many of their neighbours were in the street after having heard the commotion but were unable to help.

"There was nothing I could do but watch my home burn," she added.

Two fire appliances attended the scene and firefighters with breathing apparatus fought the blaze, which was brought under control around 7.44pm.

The hoverboard had been bought from an online retailer as a Christmas gift for Sharon's 12-year-old daughter.

The family have been left staying with friends since the fire broke out, but Sharon hopes to be able to move back into her housing association home.

They are also being helped by a community activist group called Unheard Voices.

A fundraising campaign has been set up online, the aim being to gather £5,000 to help the family replace some of their belongings. As of last night, almost £200 had been raised.

"This family live in an area already vulnerable to flooding during heavy rainfall," a spokeswoman for Unheard Voices said.

"They have lost everything, including children's toys which they only got at Christmas.

"We are working with the family to help replace items and support them in any way we can.

"Unfortunately, other items such as family photographs and items which they treasure simply cannot be replaced."

"We as group will explore every avenue to make sure that this family is re-housed in a house that is suitable for them and have the basic items in life in order to survive and get life back to normal for them as soon as possible," the spokeswoman added.

A Belfast City Council spokeswoman said the council had received a number of calls about hoverboards and as such advised against buying them.

"We have been advising consumers against purchasing these boards as there is uncertainty around the product safety, and this is in line with advice already in the public domain," she said.

"In light of the safety concerns, many retailers that were selling these goods voluntarily withdrew them from sale, or the supplier withdrew the stock at source.

"Anyone who has bought one of these items and is concerned about their child using it can seek a refund from the supplier/manufacturer. Our consumer advice staff can offer guidance on this. We will also investigate any complaints from members of the public about these items being sold in the Belfast area."

The Fire Service is treating the blaze as accidental.

There have been a number of incidents across the world in which hoverboards have caught fire while charging. Just earlier this month, a family's home on the outskirts of Melbourne in Australia was destroyed after a hoverboard caught fire in similar circumstances.

And in California, two pet dogs died and a family's home was ruined in another incident.

Trading Standards officers have previously warned there is a risk of the devices overheating.

Belfast Telegraph

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