Vaping News

Explosion Caused Death

An autopsy says an exploding mod caused the death of a Floridian man.

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Tallmadge D'Elia was found in a burning bedroom at his family’s home on May 5th. The autopsy report placed the blame on an exploding vape mechanical mod. It is imperative that manufacturers and users learn lessons from this avoidable disaster.

D'Elia was born in Maryland and demonstrated a skill for photography and film work as he grew up. After the talented outdoor enthusiast graduated, he forged a career that used his camera skills, becoming a specialist and then Technical Production Supervisor for divisions of NBC Universal.

The Pinellas-Pasco Medical Examiner's autopsy report was released on Tuesday, and details the events surrounding Tallmadge D'Elia’s unfortunate passing.

On May 5th, fire fighters were called to an incident where they found a half-burned man in his bedroom. There was, the fire report notes, “extensive damage” to the room.

The fire wasn’t the cause of the death according to the autopsy. It notes that that the exploding Philippines Smoke-E Mountain mechanical mod sent shards of metallic shrapnel into D'Elia’s head prior to triggering the fire. Since the incident, the company has taken down its Facebook page and is not responding to requests for comment. The company’s website has been wiped.

Someone allegedly from Smok-E Mountain did speak to Tampa TV station WFTS. They lay the blame at the foot of the lithium-ion battery inside the device and not the mod itself.

The report states that as the mod exploded it caused a "projectile wound of head", as well as producing burns to 80% of D'Elia’s body. It goes on to (erroneously) point the finger at lithium ion (Li-ion) batteries: "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. 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."

This is wrong. Mobile phones are the obvious things that contain Li-ion cells and are in very close proximity to the body – and yet nobody is demanding strict regulation of their sale and use. The media don’t question this because they don’t understand vaping; coverage of this story has focussed around an exploding “vape pen”, and entirely different thing to a mechanical mod. Plus, while the media are happy to report that there have been 195 reported incidents of vape-related battery failure, they are slow to identify that this is a) worldwide and b) across a 7-8 year period.

Incidents of battery failure are very low, but it does highlight two further issues for the vaping community:

  1. Some users still do not understand how to vape safely. Mechanical mods shouldn’t be sold unless it is accompanied with clear, easy to follow instruction on Ohm’s Law. Battery care and use is also low down on the priority list of many retailers and manufacturers too. This needs to be addressed.
  2. Vapers have been calling out manufacturers for years, and yet some still do not build mech mods to handle venting Li-ion cells. It is wholly unacceptable for Smok-E Mountain to place the blame at a venting li-ion battery when the mod should have had adequate venting in place in order to protect the user. Not only should manufacturers ensure their mods can perform safely during thermal runaway but retailers should stop selling inept, out-dated designs to the public.

Attempts have been made to obtain a comment from Smok-E Mountain. They have been asked whether they consider the venting to be sufficient on the mods they design and sell. They have been asked if repeated testing has been carried out while li-ion batteries have been forced into a thermal runaway scenario. They have not responded.

Photo Credit:

  • Tallmadge D'Elia -

Dave Cross avatar

Dave Cross

Journalist at POTV
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Dave is a freelance writer; with articles on music, motorbikes, football, pop-science, vaping and tobacco harm reduction in Sounds, Melody Maker, UBG, AWoL, Bike, When Saturday Comes, Vape News Magazine, and syndicated across the Johnston Press group. He was published in an anthology of “Greatest Football Writing”, but still believes this was a mistake. Dave contributes sketches to comedy shows and used to co-host a radio sketch show. He’s worked with numerous vape companies to develop content for their websites.

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