Tragic news was released from Florida this week that a man who died on May 5, 2018, suffered a fatal injury from an e-cigarette explosion. The man died from a “projectile wound to the head,” and also suffered thermal burns on 80% of his body. Tallmadge D’Elia, who reportedly worked as a technical supervisor at CNBC in New Jersey, was only thirty-eight (38) years old.
This is the first reported U.S. death from a malfunctioning e-cigarette – and it is not surprising news. A U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) report, released in 2017 and covering the periods 2009-2016, attributed catastrophic injuries from e-cigarette explosions to a product design problem, i.e., using cylindrical lithium-ion batteries in cylindrical tubes. Sixty-eight percent (68%) of reported incidents resulted in acute injuries. The USFA found that battery failures generate increased pressure that “shoots” batteries out of the tubes like “rockets.” Per the autopsy report, it appears this is exactly what happened to Tallmadge D’Elia.
A few days after D’Elia’s tragic death, an eighteen (18) year old in Michigan suffered severe burns when e-cigarette batteries he was carrying in his pocket exploded. Spencer Boeske was quoted on NBC affiliate, WCNC, as saying, “”I want everybody to know to just be cautious. Understand that it can happen to you too. I didn’t think it could happen to me.”
Unlike D’Elia, Boeske survived the explosion and will likely recover from his 1st and 2nd degree burns. Treatment for chemical and thermal burns from e-cigarette explosions can lead to months or even years of painful treatment, and in some cases require bone grafts, skin grafts, and other reconstructive surgery.
People interested in “smoking” cessation—including combustible products and e-cigarette devices—may visit the CDC website for advice and resources. The cite also lists safety tips that may help prevent e-cigarette explosions in certain circumstances. However, as the USFA report shows, these preventative measures may not prevent vaping devices from exploding. Until the vaping industry takes responsibility for its products, these incidents will continue to occur, and it is likely there will be more deaths.
If you or anyone in your family or circle of friends have been injured from an e-cigarette or from an e-cigarette explosion, know that the recovery period for thermal and chemical burns, as well as from bone damage and other injuries, is a long process. You should first contact an emergency room or specialist medical professional, and then get in touch with an experienced e-cigarette attorney who can help you understand your rights, navigate the insurance landscape, and address any legal issues that may arise.