CPSC investigates cordless drill explosion after Target 12 call

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — A Providence man says his cordless drill exploded while he was using it. Joe Sorel called Target 12 right after the incident happened. Now the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is investigating.

“If this thing had been facing toward me,” says Sorel, “I wouldn’t be here talking to you. I’d be dead. It came out like a shotgun shell.”

Sorel says he bought the Chicago Electric 18-volt cordless variable speed drill about a year ago. He had used it for several projects. This particular project was supposed to be an easy one; just unscrewing some screws.

“I had 1, 2, 3 screws out,” says Sorel. “I’m going for the 4th screw. A couple seconds later it blew! The piece come out, it hit my back window, side window, hit my thumb then hit me in the chest. Then I was left with a loud ringing in my right ear.”

The plastic on the bottom of the drill’s 18-volt battery pack is jagged. The inside is charred.

“I noticed a couple times when I was using it the battery got a little warm,” says Sorel. “But it never got really super hot. This battery had to get super hot in order for that to happen.”

According to the owners’ manual for this model number 68850 Chicago Electric tool, which was distributed by Harbor Freight, there’s a risk of fire if the battery pack and its charger aren’t used properly. Sorel says he followed the instructions carefully.

When Target 12 heard Sorel’s story, we contacted the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). They sent an investigator to his home in September. Now we’re waiting for the agency’s report. According to a letter we received from the CPSC on October 19th, “The firm [Harbor Freight] has 10 days to respond.” The letter goes on to say, “The firm’s response and our analysis of any comments… will take more than 10 days. You will receive all records to be released at the earliest possible date.”

In the meantime, we checked the CPSC website. We did not find any other problems reported with the same model drill. Target 12 reached out to Harbor Freight several times over the past month and a half. The company has not responded to our specific questions. Via email, the Director of Quality Operations said, “We take these types of matters very seriously and would like to investigate.”

The company also encouraged Joe Sorel to contact them. Sorel tells us his lawyer has been in touch with the company. Sorel also says he plans to file a lawsuit because he claims he suffered hearing loss in the incident.