Photo Caption: A toy tractor that burst into flames while being ridden by an Albany boy may have resembled this one, though investigators don't yet know who was the manufacturer or where the parents purchased the toy..
The cause of a tragic incident Sunday in which a 2-year-old boy suffered serious burns on his back, arms and neck after an "electric lawn toy" he was riding caught fire at his Albany area home remains under investigation.
Though a Columbus news station was reporting earlier this week that based on a photo, the toy tractor appeared identical to a model made by the Peg Perego company, which in the past has been recalled for overheating problems, Albany Volunteer Fire Department Chief Roger Deardorff said Tuesday that the toy was so fire-damaged, he cannot identify the brand.
"There's no way," Deardorff said, adding that the child's father "doesn't have the box (the toy) came, and there's no markings left on it – nothing."
The department responded to a Setty Road address on Sunday afternoon, to a report of a child who had been burned. According to a news release, when firefighters arrived they found the child, Wyatt Buckley, with burns to about 75 percent of his body.
Deardorff said Monday that the toy lawn tractor the boy was riding was not gasoline-powered; it ran on a battery, so firefighters can't understand why it burst into flames.
"We're not sure," Deardorff said, adding that the toy tractor was "pretty well melted down to nothing."
Deardorff said the child had been riding around the yard, and his parents were inside. "The dad had just gone in the house, and just happened to look out, and the back of (the toy) was on fire, and coming up the back of the child," he said.
When the boy's father, Marlon Buckley, saw the tractor and his son's clothing on fire, and the boy running across the yard, he reportedly ran out and used a rug to extinguish the burning clothing. Wyatt Buckley was treated at the scene by Athens County emergency personnel, and then flown to Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, where he has reportedly undergone multiple surgeries.
Marlon Buckley suffered serious burns to his hands. He stayed on scene and told rescue workers he was going to the hospital on his own.
Deardorff said firefighters questioned the parents as to how the fire could have started, but found no likely answers. He noted that the toy did have a fake gas cap, so firefighters asked the parents if the child might have tried putting gasoline into it. However, the chief said, there was no evidence of this.
"We didn't smell anything (like gasoline)," he added.
Deardorff called the incident "unique, or strange," and said that neighbors of the family described the couple as good, responsible parents.
Various companies, including John Deere and Peg Perego, market toy tractors powered by 12-volt batteries. There have been reports of toy tractors and cars catching on fire after parents replaced the stock battery with a longer-lasting motorcycle or lawn tractor battery, and Deardorff said Wednesday that he intends to ask the boy's father whether any modifications had been made to the toy's battery component.
Nationwide Children's Hospital told The Athens NEWS late Monday that it will not be releasing any information about the child's condition. The boy was in critical condition when taken to the hospital, Deardorff told the Columbus Dispatch.