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Medical Examiner: North Texas Man Killed When E-cig Explodes

By The Associated Press

FORT WORTH, Texas—A medical examiner says a North Texas man was killed when an e-cigarette exploded in his face.

The Tarrant County Medical Examiner’s Office reports 24-year-old William Brown of Fort Worth died on Tuesday, Jan. 29—two days after a vaporizer pen he was using at an e-cigarette shop in nearby Keller exploded. The medical examiner says shrapnel from the explosion severed his left carotid artery and peppered his skull.

A similar incident also killed a Florida man last May. Officials said 38-year-old Tallmadge D’Elia of St. Petersburg died when his exploding vape pen sent two fragments into his skull. He also suffered burns on about 80 percent of his body. The death was ruled an accident.

Such accidents aren’t unheard of: According to a U.S. Fire Administration report, at least 195 electronic cigarettes exploded or caught fire from 2009 to 2016, and while no deaths were recorded in that time, the explosions caused 133 injuries, 38 of them severe.

Firefighters found D’Elia inside his burning home, the Tampa Bay Times reported. Officials found “extensive” fire damage in D’Elia’s bedroom, where his body was found, but minimal smoke, the report said.

The explosion sent two pieces of the vape pen into the D’Elia’s cranium, the autopsy found. The report listed the cause of death as “projectile wound of the head.” He also suffered burns on about 80 percent of his body. The death was ruled an accident.

E-cigarettes are displayed
E-cigarettes are displayed at Gone With the Smoke Vapor Lounge in San Franciso on May 5, 2016. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

The vape was manufactured by the Philippines-based Smok-E Mountain. A company representative told WFTS news that their devices do not explode. The representative said it was likely an atomizer—the part a person inserts into their mout—or a battery. The representative said they’ve had problems with other companies cloning their batteries, which makes them less safe. The company wanted to see photos of the device that was used by D’Elia.

The Food and Drug Administration has said it’s not clear what causes some vape pens to explode, but it could stem from battery-related issues.

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