A 24-year-old Texas man was killed when an e-cigarette he was holding exploded in his face, a medical examiner says. William Eric Brown, of Fort Worth, died two days after the vape pen explosion at a store in Keller, Texas, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports.
According to a report from the Tarrant County medical examiner’s office obtained by Heavy, Brown died January 29 as a result of penetrating trauma from an exploding vaporizer pen. The medical examiner said Brown’s left carotid artery in his neck was severed by the blast. Brown suffered a stroke and bleeding in his brain, doctors told Brown’s family, according to the newspaper.
The injuries occurred on January 27 and he later died at John Peter Smith Hospital, the Star-Telegram reports. Shrapnel from the explosion caused the severed artery and peppered his skull, The Associated Press reports, citing the same medical examiner.
“He was talking when he got to the hospital,” his grandmother, Alice Brown, told NBC Dallas. “Now he’s got a new address in heaven.” Brown said her grandson’s death should be a warning to others about the dangers of vape pens. She told CBS Dallas, “He had a future ahead of him; a life ahead of him.”
The medical examiner’s report listed Brown’s official cause of death as, “cerebral infraction and herniation due to dissection of left internal carotid artery due to penetrating trauma from exploding vaporizer pen.” His death is listed as an accident. The incident remains under investigation. Brown told reporters she doesn’t plan to file a lawsuit because that wouldn’t bring her grandson back. The brand and model of the vape pen Brown was using hasn’t been made public.
Brown Brought the Device to the Store for Help & It Exploded When He Was Trying to Use It in His Car, According to Reports
William Brown was injured in the parking lot of Smoke & Vape DZ in Keller, Texas, according to the medical examiner’s report. But store employees told multiple news outlets that the vape pen was not purchased at the store. An employee told the Dallas Morning News authorities had instructed them to not discuss details of the case.
Brown’s grandmother told NBC Dallas her grandson told her he was going out to buy vape products on January 25. “He said, ‘I’ll be right back granny,'” Alice Brown said. He went to the store in the 4500 block of Golden Triangle, according to the medical examiner’s report.
Smoke & Vape DZ told CBS Dallas that Brown didn’t buy anything at the store, but wanted help with the Mechanical Mod style vape pen. The store’s manager told the news station they don’t sell the brand because it’s been known to have issues. Brown then went into the parking lot and bystanders and store employees soon saw he needed help. His grandmother told the Star-Telegram that he was found injured while crawling from near the driver’s seat to
the trunk of the car. The store’s manager said he called an ambulance.
He was rushed to John Peter Smith Hospital and died two days later, on January 29, after he was put into a medically induced coma. His grandmother said the bottom of the vape pen shot through his neck. “He popped it and it exploded, and that’s when it shot across his mouth,” Alice Brown told WFAA-TV.
“That went across his lip, apparently somehow, and cut his lip,” Brown’s grandmother said of the projectiles from the exploded vape pen. “That three-piece thing went into his throat and stayed there, and that’s what (doctors) should have taken out as soon as they got to the hospital, and they decided to wait until Monday or Tuesday.”
Brown’s grandmother told CBS Dallas told x-rays and knew Brown had a piece of the e-cigarette lodged in his throat, but never operated on him. She said she believes he should have undergone surgery.
“Murder. Not quite 25-years-old, and he should have had a long life ahead of him,” Alice Brown told the news station. “He should have made it if they had done the surgery.”
The hospital told the news station it wasn’t able to discuss details because of privacy laws. “We hold ourselves to the highest standards in providing high-quality healthcare and will take family concerns seriously as we review all that transpired,” JPS Health Network said in a statement.
Alice Brown told the Star-Telegram her grandson was not a usual smoker and had not used vape pens before the explosion. She said he had issues with asthma and a friend told her the vaporizer he had bought could help him “breathe good.”
Brown Was an Electrician & Enjoyed Working on Cars
William Brown lived with his grandmother in Fort Worth and worked as an electrician. He would have turned 25 on February 18. “It just hurts so bad. Now he’ll never see that birthday. It’s a waste of the things he could have accomplished,” his grandmother, Alice Brown, told the Star-Telegram.
His grandmother said her grandson followed in his father’s footsteps to become an electrician after graduating from high school. He enjoyed working on cars and was fixing up an old Mazda RX8. His Facebook page features several photos of Mazda cars.
“His friends are getting together to fix the car for him,” Brown told the newspaper. “It just all seems so unreal. He was running around doing his thing at 24 and now he’s gone.”
Brown told NBC Dallas her grandson “took good care of her and her family.”
Brown’s grandmother told the Star-Telegram investigators believe the vape pen’s battery caused the fatal explosion. She told the newspaper she went through her car, which was covered in her grandson’s blood, to find pieces of the destroyed e-cigarette and found a piece that showed the battery’s serial number. She gave that to investigators.
“That’s the important part,” she told the Star-Telegram. “That’s what the investigator said he needed. … I just hope, if anything, I hope it stops someone from (smoking electronic cigarettes). I don’t know how many more people will have to die.”
Funeral services for Brown will be held later this week, his family said. “I miss him already, and knowing he won’t open that door and come through it ever again is the hardest part,” Alice Brown told WFAA.
“This is so hard for me to go through,” Alice Brown told NBC News. “If they had told me he got hit by a car or run over by a bus or something it would have made sense. This doesn’t make sense.”
Another Man Was Killed in a Vape Pen Explosion in Florida Last Year & the U.S. Fire Administration Warned the E-Cigarettes Could Act Like ‘Flaming Rockets’ if the Battery Fails
Brown is believed to be only the second person to die as a result of an explosion or fire caused by an e-cigarette or vaporizer. A Florida man, Tallmadge D’Elia, died in May 2018 in St. Petersburg after a vape pen exploded while he was using it, according to The New York Times. He died after suffering burns to 80 percent of his body, investigators said. He also suffered a “projectile wound to the head.” His death was also ruled accidental.
According to a 2017 study by the U.S. Fire Administration, there were 133 acute injuries from e-cigarettes, vape pens and other similar devices between 2009 and 2016, with most caused by fires and explosions.
The injuries occurred with the devices either in the person’s hand or pocket, according to the report. There were no deaths between that time period. But the Fire Administration said the shape of the e-cigarettes could turn them into “flaming rockets” if the battery on the device fails.
“No other consumer product places a battery with a known explosion hazard such as this in such close proximity to the human body. It is this intimate contact between the body and the battery that is most responsible for the severity of the injuries that have been seen,” the Fire Administration’s report said. “While the failure rate of the lithium-ion batteries is very small, the consequences of a failure, as we have seen, can be severe and life-altering for the consumer.”
The FDA offers tips to help avoid vape battery explosions on its website.