NEWS
07/05/2018 06:52 SAST | Updated 07/05/2018 06:53 SAST

Man Found Dead After Vape Pen Apparently Explodes In His Face

An erupting pen can project “flying debris and shrapnel,” warns fire official.

Florida authorities are investigating the death of a man whose body was found at home Saturday by firefighters after a vape pen appears to have exploded in his face.

The cause of death has not yet been determined, but 38-year-old Tallmadge D'Elia suffered multiple injuries to his face, officials said. Firefighters were called by a neighbor to D'Elia's home in St. Petersburg when the suspected explosion set off a small fire.

Vape pens "have a lithium battery and they start to generate heat," St. Petersburg Fire & Rescue deputy fire marshal Lt. Steve Lawrence told Spectrum 9 TV. "In this case, we believe that exploded."

Lawrence told WFTS-TV: "It's like having a ... firecracker in your hand. It can explode and at that point, it can project either the pieces of the lighter itself or the vape pen. They become pieces of flying debris and shrapnel."

According to a report by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, there were 195 vape pen explosions from 2009 to 2016. Though 29 percent of the victims suffered "severe" injuries, no one was killed. Most of the "incidents" of fire or explosion occurred when the device was either "in a pocket or actively in use," according to the report.

The report calls fires or explosions caused by the batteries "uncommon" but warns that "consequences can be devastating and life-altering for the victims." It says that when explosions do happen, the shape and construction of the devices can make them behave like "flaming rockets."

"The combination of an electronic cigarette and a lithium-ion battery is a new and unique hazard," the report notes. "There is no analogy among consumer products to the risk of a severe and acute injury presented by an e-cigarette."

D'Elia's death could have been caused directly by the explosion, or possibly the fire, officials said. An autopsy is pending.

Exploding cell phones, which are also powered by sometimes unpredictably volatile lithium batteries, have caused injuries and even death, according to reports.