At least two pieces of the exploded vape pen landed in the 38-year-old's head, and 80 percent of his body was burned.
Tallmadge D’Elia was found dead at home in St. Petersburg, Fla. on May 5, 2018, after his vape pen exploded, sending pieces of the device into his skull and setting the home ablaze.
First responders were dispatched to the 38-year-old D’Elia’s home after a neighbor reported seeing flames coming from the window. The firefighters who discovered D’Elia said at least most of his body was covered in burns. They suspected his e-cigarette was the cause of death, as injuries to his face indicated that it might have exploded.
The Pinellas County medical examiner autopsy report later confirmed that the exploding vape pen killed D’Elia and that 80 percent of his body was burned. The device exploded, sending at least two pieces (which were recovered) into his cranium.
D’Elia was a television producer at CNBC before he moved to St. Petersburg to work as a freelancer.
The death was ruled an accident, and the cause is listed in the report as “projectile wound of the head.” Smok-E Mountain is the company that manufactured the vape pen.
The FDA said it’s unclear what causes vape pens to explode, though it’s usually battery-related. D’Elia’s death is likely the first from one an exploded pen. But a report from the U.S. Fire Administration found at least 195 incidents of electronic cigarettes exploding or catching fire between 2009 and 2016. Of the incidents reported, 133 caused injuries; 38 were severe. More than half of the total incidents of the included fires started nearby.
The federal agency recently provided a fact sheet with safety recommendations. Some of the tips include: never carry loose e-cigarette batteries in your pocket, don’t charge it while sleeping or leave it unattended, charge it on a flat surface away from anything that can catch fire, don’t mix battery brands or old and new batteries, and protect the device from extreme temperatures by not leaving it in direct sunlight or in a freezing car overnight.