E-Cigarette Batteries Explode in Grocery Shoppers' Pocket Burning a Hole in Pants

A man is lucky to be alive after his e-cigarette battery exploded in his pocket and set his pants on fire.

Kevin King is recovering in the hospital after batteries for his e-cigarette exploded in his pocket and left him with serious injuries, including severe burns and shrapnel wounds.

“It just exploded. One minute you’re pulling up in your driveway, and the next minute your pants are like crazy on fire,” King told Jeff Rossen with Today. “It just like burst into flames. I mean like a crazy rocket. It just burned right through my pants.”

King, who had been returning home, managed to get out of his vehicle, but the explosion of the first battery caused another e-cigarette battery in his pocket to explode as well.

“The other one explodes – shrapnel in my face and everything,” King said.

The explosion of the battery not only burned a hole through King’s jeans, but also through the floor of the car he had been in, and the subsequent fire severely burned his leg, resulting in him needing a skin graft. Shrapnel from the second explosion hit King’s face near his eye, with doctor’s claiming that if the shrapnel had just been an inch over, he could have suffered vision loss.

“This is the worst pain I’ve ever been in in my life,” King said.

According to Barbara Guthrie, Underwriters Laboratories' Chief Public Safety Officer, loose change in King’s pocket can be blamed for setting off the explosion.

“It’s almost an accident waiting to happen,” Guthrie said. “And because the batteries are in the pocket with a lot of loose change, they actually shorted out and energized the battery and caused the explosion.”

1comments

King’s experience is far from the first. Former CNBC producer Tallmadge Wakeman D'Elia died on May 5 after his e-cigarette exploded and ignited a fire in his family’s home, though an autopsy report found that D'Elia died from a “projectile wound” rather than the fire. According to a medical examiner, the e-cigarette exploded into pieces, at least two of which lodged into his skull and penetrated his brain. He also suffered burns to about 80 percent of his body.

From 2009 through 2016, there were at least 195 incidents in which an electronic cigarette exploded or caught fire, according to a report from FEMA and the U.S. Fire Administration. Of those incidents, 133 resulted in injury, 38 of which were severe.