I.E. man recovering after “vape” explodes inside pocket

Writer’s note: The victim involved in this incident has requested that his name be removed from this article due to possible litigation against the manufacturers of the involved device and battery. Based on his request, his name has been removed and for the purpose of this article his name was changed to “John Smith.”

-TM

A Victorville resident who grew up in San Jacinto is recovering after a battery-powered electronic vaporizer, also known as an e-cigarette, exploded while inside his pocket during a family get together earlier this month.

The incident, which left the victim with third-degree burns and permanent scars, has caused the victim “weeks of agonizing pain” as he continues to recover and undergo painful debridement and other medical procedures.

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Like many people who use vaporizers and e-cigarettes, John Smith, 25, says he began “vaping” about five years ago as a means to help him quit smoking. Although he admits he had previously heard of the devices’ problems with occasional malfunctions – usually caused by the devices’ lithium-ion batteries – he never could have imagined what happened to him at a family BBQ last St. Patrick’s Day.

According to Smith, he was enjoying a get together with family and friends when his vaporizer, which had been inside his cargo pants’ pocket, suddenly exploded.

John Smith, 25, has endured weeks of painful treatments and ongoing recovery after a lithium-ion powered vaporizer exploded inside his pocket during a St. Patrick’s Day BBQ.

“There was an initial explosion and you could actually see the flames shooting out of my pocket,” Smith recently told RCNS. “I tried to get my pants off but couldn’t get them off fast enough.”

“I started to panic,” Smith admitted. “I just ran and started kicking my leg and trying to pull off my pants, when the vape eventually came out of my pant pocket.”

Unfortunately for Smith, the damage caused when the vaporizer’s lithium-ion battery exploded was already done.

Stunned family and friends frantically called 911, while trying to calm and comfort Smith. The victim described being in agony, as the skin from his still smoldering leg began to bubble and peel away. He was rushed to Victor Valley Regional Medical Center’s Emergency Room, where doctors and nurses began the “excruciating” process of treating him for third degree burns that covered much of his upper left thigh, near where the device had been inside his pocket.

Smith says that since the accident, he has undergone several “extremely painful” procedures to debride and clean the burned portions of his leg, which is continuing to heal.

Smith is now considering legal action against both the maker of the vaporizer, as well as the company who makes the lithium-ion battery used inside the electronic device.

“The manufacturers clearly know the dangers these batteries cause, but the public doesn’t,” Smith explained.

Asked if he ever planned to use a vaporizer again, Smith emphatically told RCNS, “No, absolutely not. Never again.”


According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration – which has long held that the type of batteries commonly used in vaporizers can catch fire, explode, or suffer other catastrophic failures – there are basic steps vape users can do to better protect themselves and minimize the dangers their devices represent.

“Until all vapes and vape batteries conform to strong and consistent safety standards, your best protection against vape battery explosions may be knowing as much as possible about your device and how to properly handle and charge its batteries,” FDA explained on its website.

— Make sure you read and understand the manufacturer’s recommendations for use and care of your device. If your vape did not come with instructions or you have further questions, contact the manufacturer.

— Don’t remove or disable safety features—like fire button locks or vent holes—that are designed to prevent battery overheating and explosions.

— Only use batteries recommended for your device. Don’t mix different brands of batteries, use batteries with different charge levels, or use old and new batteries together.

— Charge your vape on a clean, flat surface, away from anything that can easily catch fire and someplace you can clearly see it—not a couch or pillow where it is more prone to overheat or get turned on accidentally.

— Protect your vape from extreme temperatures by not leaving it in direct sunlight or in your car on a freezing cold night.

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Contact the writer: trevor.rcns@gmail.com

Trevor Montgomery, 47, moved last year to the Intermountain area of Shasta County from Riverside County and runs Riverside County News Source and Shasta County News Source. Additionally, he writes for several other news organizations; including Riverside County based newspapers, Valley News, The Valley Chronicle, and Anza Valley Outlook; as well as Bonsall/Fallbrook Village News in San Diego County and Mountain Echo in Shasta County.

Trevor spent 10 years in the U.S. Army as an Orthopedic Specialist before joining the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department in 1998. He was medically retired after losing his leg, breaking his back, and suffering both spinal cord and brain injuries in an off-duty accident. (Click here to see segment of Discovery Channel documentary of Trevor’s accident.)

During his time with the sheriff’s department, Trevor worked at several different stations; including Robert Presley Detention Center, Southwest Station in Temecula, Hemet/Valle Vista Station, Ben Clark Public Safety Training Center, and Lake Elsinore Station; along with other locations.

Trevor’s assignments included Corrections, Patrol, DUI Enforcement, Boat and Personal Water-Craft based Lake Patrol, Off-Road Vehicle Enforcement, Problem Oriented Policing Team, and Personnel/Background Investigations. He finished his career while working as a Sex Crimes and Child Abuse Investigator and was a court-designated expert in child abuse and child sex-related crimes.

Trevor has been married for more than 28 years and was a foster parent to more than 60 children over 13 years. He is now an adoptive parent and his “fluid family” includes 13 children and 15 – but soon to be 16 – grandchildren.

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