Kentucky man hospitalized after his e-cigarette battery explodes in his pocket

A customer at an Owensboro, Kentucky convenience store was hospitalized on Saturday after an electronic cigarette battery apparently exploded in his pocket, and it was all caught on surveillance video.

Josh Hamilton, the victim, is recovering from severe burns on his right thigh. Hamilton was paying for snacks at the counter at his local Shell gas station when flames shot out from his leg through his clothes.

“He was giving me money, he put his hand in his pocket, so suddenly there was fire. Big fire, and he was burning,” Jassie Singh, who was working the register at the time, told WFIE. According to the surveillance cameras inside the gas station, Hamilton steps back from the counter, shaking his leg, and then runs outside.

“I was shocked! I was like, ‘What was that? You have a bomb in your pocket?’ I was like that! ‘You carry your bomb in your pocket?’ I was totally shocked and just like this, my hands were on my head,” said Manoj Kumar, a gas station employee.

Manoj Kumar told CNN that Hamilton then took off his pants to try to get rid of the flames. He said that Singh then “came out of the store, grabbed a fire extinguisher and sprayed it on the guy’s leg.” Then another customer took him to a hospital, he said.

“Third degree burns all up and down my leg. Just had an Ecig battery blow up and catch fire inside my pocket! Ouch ow ow ow,” Hamilton posted on Facebook on Saturday afternoon. After he went to the hospital, he posted a graphic picture of his wound and clarified his injuries with the comment, “These are actually all 2nd degree burns so hopefully won’t have to have surgery or skin graphs. But it’s too soon to tell I think.”

He also thanked people for their concern saying: “Thanks for all the get well wishes everyone!
“P.S all who Vape, I am not the bad guy here.”

E-cigarettes are battery-operated devices that release liquid, usually with nicotine, in the form of vapor to users who inhale it. Neither the devices nor the liquids they deliver are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) or any other group in the same way other tobacco products are. The FDA has been considering doing so.

Scientific studies have shown conflicting data on whether using the devices aids smoking cessation of traditional cigarettes. In the meantime, the use of e-cigarettes is on the rise.

This isn’t the first instance of an e-cigarette battery catching fire.

A teen in Lethbridge ended up with severe burns on his face and broken teeth back in January after his e-cigarette exploded while he was using it, according to The Canadian Press.

“He wanted to die. That is how much pain he was in,” Ty Greer’s father Perry told the outlet.

A 23-year-old Utah man also recently ended up with second-degree burns after change in his pocket may have prompted his e-cig to ignite, according to Fox13. The burns covered Austin Mark’s right leg and hand.

There have been 22 such incidents reported since 2008, when these products hit the market, said Tom Kiklas of the Tobacco Vapor Electronic Cigarette Association. But, he says, that’s a tiny number when you consider that 9 million Americans are using e-vapor products and recharging them daily.

“It’s not so much an issue of the e-vapor product but with the lithium batteries they are using, and most are mismatched to the charger,” Kiklas told CNN. He said consumers use batteries or chargers other than what’s recommended, and that can be the problem.

He added that consumers should not to put these products in their pockets because coins can short-circuit the lithium-ion battery when they rub against the device.

On the other hand, sellers of the popular e-cigarettes told Seattle’s Kiro 7 News that they think unregulated or cheap versions bought online are behind the explosions.

“The battery is working too hard, for the most part, and when it vents, it’s basically an explosion without the shrapnel,” vendor Erik Hartzog said of the unregulated e-cigarettes, which don’t shut off when the battery is too low.