HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – A popular toy, known to consumer watchdogs for causing fires, claimed its first life in the U.S. over the weekend, spurring a federal investigation into the fire that killed a Harrisburg 3-year-old.
Since that fire on Friday, people have come by the house in the 2500 block of Lexington Street in Harrisburg’s uptown neighborhood to leave stuffed animals, candles, and flowers on the porch.
The memorial comes as the city’s fire chief warned parents to get rid their hoverboards, the kind of toy he said caused it all to happen.
“Good people, they were real good people,” Leonard Curry, a neighbor of Lexington, said. He was one of a number of people drawn outside by the flames.
“First thing I saw was a whole lot of caring family members hollering, ‘Oh my God, oh my God, it’s a baby up there, it’s a baby up there,’” he said.
“This family lost absolutely everything,” Chief Brian Enterline said at a news conference Monday morning.
A 3-year-old girl, Ashanti Hughes, was trapped inside the house, Enterline said. She died later from severe burns over most of her body.
He said three other girls, two 10-year-olds and a 3-year-old, were still in critical condition, though he acknowledged later in the day there was some confusion about the number of people injured and that was the best number he could provide.
“When I arrived on scene,” he said, fighting back emotion, “they were just pulling the first victims from the building, and we knew right away it was a devastating fire.”
Enterline said a hoverboard — the popular battery-powered toy featuring a flat surface to stand on and a wheel on either side that kids ride around on — was charging near the front door.
Nearby overstuffed furniture, full of synthetic materials, provided fuel for the flames.
“They heard the crackling and it started smoking,” he said. The resulting fire “blocked their way to get out of the front door.”
The federal Consumer Product Safety Commission is now investigating. It’s looked into more than 60 fires caused by hoverboard batteries in the U.S., but this is the first death resulting from one.
The agency will try to determine what brand the toy was and whether it’s been recalled.
Enterline took the opportunity Monday to rail against hoverboards broadly. His kids don’t have them, he said, because he’s the fire chief and knows the dangers.
“I would encourage you, if you love your family,” Enterline said. “They’re fun. Get a Razor scooter that you can propel with your feet and get rid of the hoverboard so we don’t have any more tragedies.”
“Maybe this is what takes us to the next level and there comes some federal mandates down and we make this better for everybody,” he added.
Enterline said the department is lucky two firefighters were not hurt when they were briefly trapped on the second floor of the house while working to rescue others inside.
Another firefighter, Lt. Dennis DeVoe, was killed by a suspected drunk driver on his way to the fire. The city has not released details about funeral arrangements.