A Texas man died Jan. 29 after his newly purchased e-cigarette exploded in his face.
Twenty-four-year-old William Brown of Fort Worth reportedly had just purchased an e-cigarette at the Smoke & Vape DZ vape store in Keller/North Fort Worth on Jan. 27. His grandmother, Alice Brown, told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram that he was using the e-cigarette for the first time in her car at the vape shop’s parking lot when the explosion occurred.
According to Ms. Brown, her grandson was not a regular smoker. He decided to vape, she said, because someone told him that there was a certain type of e-cigarette or vape pen that could help mitigate the symptoms of asthma. She said she wasn’t sure if that information was even true.
On the day of the deadly explosion, William was using his grandmother’s car to go to the bank. On his way there, he made a pit stop at the vape store.
He was inside the vehicle when he tried the e-cigarette for the first time, Ms. Brown told the Star-Telegram. According to the medical examiner, William’s death was the result of penetrating trauma to the head and neck from an exploding vape pen. Fragments from the e-cigarette severed his carotid artery. Doctors at Fort Worth’s John Peter Smith Hospital, where William was taken, said he suffered a stroke in the car and developed bleeding in his brain.
Ms. Brown said she believes her grandson tried to get help. He crawled from the cab of the car to the back before collapsing on the pavement. Someone who witnessed William’s struggle called an ambulance. William died of his injuries at the hospital a couple of days later.
Ms. Brown has been in touch with an investigator in the case. She told the Star-Telegram that she had to go through her car, covered in her grandson’s blood, to collect pieces of the e-cigarette. She said she managed to find the culprit in the explosion – the lithium-ion battery that likely malfunctioned and blew up the device. The battery’s serial number is intact, so identifying its manufacturer and other information about it will be easier for investigators.
“I just hope, if anything, I hope it stops someone from (smoking electronic cigarettes). I don’t know how many more people will have to die,” Ms. Brown told the Star-Telegram.
William Brown is at least the second person to die from injuries caused by an exploding e-cigarette. The first known case occurred in May 2018 when an e-cigarette exploded in a St. Petersburg, Florida man’s face.
Authorities said Tallmadge D’Elia, 38, suffered “multiple injuries to his face,” including a “projectile wound of the head” that medical examiners said caused his death. There were two fragments of his e-cigarette lodged in his brain. Mr. D’Elia also suffered burns on about 80 percent of his body.
Researchers are finding the e-cigarette explosions and the burn and blast injuries they cause are not isolated incidents like the vape industry often claims. While it’s difficult to quantify e-cigarette explosions due to the lack of a tracking system and reporting requirement, hospitals and burn centers throughout the U.S. have treated multiple e-cigarette blast victims.
According to the Star-Telegram, a recent study conducted in part by Dr. Dennis Thombs, dean of the School of Public Health at University of North Texas Health Science Center, “showed that e-cigarette injuries are widely underreported across the nation.” Researchers in that study estimated there were about 2,035 e-cigarette explosions and burn injuries in U.S. hospital emergency rooms, just from 2015 to 2017 – more than 40 times the number government sources initially estimated.