Forensic Engineering Investigation into Factors Contributing to Explosion of a Consumer-Grade Tabletop Torch
In early 2013, approximately 3,500 consumer-grade tabletop torches, designed for use with citronella oil to ward off insects, were sold by a retailer. Within six months of their debut, 22 of these products experi-enced sudden explosions, resulting in one fatality and 21 severe burn injuries to consumers. The author was retained as an expert in the fatal explosion case to determine the root cause(s) that led to these explosions. This paper will describe the detailed, experimental-based investigation that was carried out to reveal design, manufacturing, and marketing defects for which the designer of the torch, the manufacturer of the fuel, and the retailer of the final product were responsible. It was determined that the explosions occurred as a result of a “perfect storm” scenario that involved defective product design, defective marketing of the product through the sale of incompatible fuel by the retailer, and deficient warning instructions by the manufacturer.
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