A Florida man is dead in what is being described as the first vaping-related accidental death. St. Petersburg authorities say the man appears to have died Saturday in a fire caused by an “exploding vape pen.”
The fire happened in a bedroom of the house Tallmadge D’Elia lived in, and that is where his body was found. His body was 45 percent covered in burns, according to authorities. Investigators told the Tampa Bay Times that the man had facial injuries consistent with an explosion near his head.
Information on the accident is still scarce. It’s uncertain if the man died from an explosion or from the fire — or from some other cause. There is no official cause of death yet, but the Pinellas County medical examiner is expected to weigh in after an autopsy is performed.
Fire officials are still investigating the incident too. But Lt. Pete Fire & Rescue deputy fire marshal Lt. Steven Lawrence, told Tampa TV station WFTS that he thinks the man’s vape device exploded and led to his death.
The 38-year-old D’Elia had recently moved to Florida, and was living in his parents’ home. According to his father, he had been a technical supervisor at CNBC’s headquarters in New Jersey.
None of the news stories about the fire describe the vape product D’Elia was using. Explosions of vape mods is unusual, and serious fires are even more uncommon. As we recently reported, an FDA study of the issue found that typical vaping fire or explosion injuries are caused by mishandled batteries.
RJ Reynolds Vapor Company recently recalled 2.6 million Vuse Vibe units because of faulty internal batteries that the company says could cause a fire risk. No fires or injuries had been reported. Changing the design of a vaping product introduced before August 8, 2016 is not allowed by the FDA until the manufacturer submits a premarket tobacco application (PMTA) to the agency and receives a marketing order. No vaping product has had a PMTA approved by regulators.
Other electronic devices that use lithium ion batteries have also caused explosions and fires, and occasionally deaths. There are credible reports of cell phone users dying from injuries caused by explosions, mostly in China or India. But the number of phone battery deaths is dwarfed by the number of cell phone users killed texting or talking while driving. A 2010 study claimed that distracted driving caused by cell phones killed 16,000 Americans between 2001 and 2007.