10 Investigates Finds Pattern Of Toys Catching Fire, Injuring Children


UPDATED: Tuesday November 20, 2012 7:45 AM

While children may love to ride on battery powered cars and trucks, 10 Investigates has found a history of danger.

In Athens County last spring, Marlon Buckley's son Wyatt was riding a Peg Perego brand toy tractor. Buckley looked up to see it in flames.

“His pants were on fire and his shirt was on fire,” said Buckley.  “And he screamed, and he ran to me, and I ran to him, and I got him about right there.”

Buckley attempted to get Wyatt’s clothes off as quickly as possible. He gets upset when he talks about how he could not get his pants off fast enough.

The toy tractor left Wyatt with second- and third-degree burns over 60 percent of his body, including his legs, stomach, arms and back.

Wyatt celebrated his third birthday in the hospital, but five months later, he’s doing better.

His mother, Heather, said her three-year-old faces a lifetime of uncertainty.

“Once he starts growing, the skin grafts only stretch so far, so they really can't ay if he's going to need surgeries or how many more he's going to need,” said Heather Buckley.

10 Investigates has learned riding toys have repeatedly put kids in danger.

In fact, some companies, including Peg Perego, have been forced to recall some of their products because of overheating and fires.

A Consumer Product Safety Commission recall notice from 1999 indicates that Peg Perego recalled 270,000 riding toys because "electrical components can overheat, presenting fire and injury hazards."

But Wyatt’s toy was NOT under recall and Peg Perego denies responsibility.

“We do not see any evidence that the toy malfunctioned since the materials of our toys cannot suddenly burst into flames. We are confident that other extraordinary external factors were involved to cause such a sudden fire,” said a company statement.

“To suggest that there was an external cause is mystifying to me,” said attorney Dale Perdue.

Perdue represents Wyatt's family. He said he expects that he will have to file a lawsuit.

“This is a strong case. This is a product that is defective. There's no question about that,” he added.

Peg Perego has gotten in trouble in past years for allegedly failing to admit its riding toy safety problems quickly enough. In 2002, it agreed to pay the federal government $150,000 to settle those claims.

More recently, 10 Investigates found a consumer complaint to the federal government that says last spring a Peg Perego battery overheated and made boiling sounds and looked as though it was about to burst.

But Peg Perego is not the only company to face questions about safety.

In September, a company called Blue Stem recalled ride-on toys because "the battery can overheat, smoke, melt and catch on fire."

A few years earlier, another company recalled its Cinderella powered cars because of fire and burn hazards. In one case, it was reported that "flames shot from under the hood while a 4-year-old was riding.”

“We need sometimes better language, tighter laws,” said Sen. Sherrod Brown.

Brown said the government needs to strengthen oversight on the toys that have component parts made overseas.

“If a company buys its products, or its ingredients, or its components from China, they need to be responsible knowing where they all came from before they fit together and what Chinese supplier made them, and what Chinese supplier made them. And the public has a right to know that,” said Brown.

With or without government action, Wyatt's dad just hopes parents get the message before it's too late.

“Be very, very careful to what you purchase across the market for your child to ride on,” said Marlon Buckley.

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