TV producer killed by exploding e-cigarette

Tallmadge Wakeman D’EliaTV producer Tallmadge Wakeman D’Elia, 38, was killed at his home in St. Petersburg, Florida when his e-cigarette, also known as a vape pen, exploded, penetrating his skull and lodging in his brain.

A neighbor called 911 after spotting flames in D’Elia’s house.

Firefighters found “extensive” fire damage in the bedroom where D’Elia was found. He had burns to roughly 80 percent of his body, according to the autopsy, which was just released.

The vaping device, which is not regulated in the United States, was made by Smok-E Mountain Mech Works, a company located in the Phillipines.

D’Elia is pictured here with an example (inset) of the bullet-shaped vape pens found at the Smoke-E Mountain Mech Works website.

The autopsy report, released by Pinellas County’s Medical Examiner, says the electronic cigarette created a “projectile wound” in D’Elia’s head.

According to The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) — an agency of the United States Department of Homeland Security — this is the first e-cigarette death in the United States. FEMA also reported that vape pen explosions are uncommon, but when they do explode, they “can be propelled across the room like a bullet or small rocket.”

D’Elia, who went by the nickname “Wake,” worked as a producer for CNBC before moving to Florida to freelance.

His death has officially been ruled as “accidental” in the autopsy. ~Alexandra Heilbron 

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Comments & Discussion

  1. Dr. Jekyll • May 17, 2018 @ 10:44 AM

    Sad news. Smoking really kills.

  2. Colleen • May 17, 2018 @ 11:04 AM

    Wow. My brother uses e-cigarette, also known as a vape pen. Will be letting him know he should throw it away or stop using it.

  3. Pamela Kullo • May 17, 2018 @ 11:05 AM

    Shocking to hear he was killed not by smoking but by the product which was to help him quit the habit. R.I.P.

  4. Marc Alexander • May 17, 2018 @ 11:30 AM

    That sucks. But a few things about the article that are improtant to note:

    1) He was using an unregulated mod with no control chip to safegaurd from overheating or short circuits.
    2) He was using a high powered device and may not have know how to calculate his amperage properly. Those devices are extremely dangerous if you don’t have a good understanding of how electricity works.
    3) He was using chinese knock off batteries in a high power, unregulated device. Bad move. A high power box mod should have legit brand name batteries from a reputated dealer in it, and they should have a high enough amperage to be safe, usually 25 amps/h or more.
    4) He might have been using the old school lithium ion batteries that had a tendancy to explode. A problem that was fixed when the chemistry in vape batteries switched over to IMR.

    The average user will never need to worry about those kinds of things. The biggest worry is chargers failing and causing fire, which is why I never leave them on the charger unattended.
    This isn’t a big concren for people who don’t take stupid risks like that guy did.

  5. Stacey • May 17, 2018 @ 12:34 PM

    Ironic that people use these to cut down on the risk of cancer, but then the e-cigarette kills almost instantaneously if something goes wrong, as it clearly did here. What a nightmare way to die.

  6. Lee Mac • May 17, 2018 @ 2:10 PM

    OHHH Enough already
    One dead with a vape pen…..MILLIONS dead with cigarettes

  7. Robert • May 17, 2018 @ 5:16 PM

    “The average user will never need to worry about those kinds of things. The biggest worry is chargers failing and causing fire, which is why I never leave them on the charger unattended.
    This isn’t a big concren for people who don’t take stupid risks like that guy did.”

    WOW!!! So the average user is safe using Vape pens after one device burns 80% of some persons body. Yeah, don’t worry it’s only the Filipino batteries!! LOL I think people should wait until real experts figure out what the problem is. E-cigs are so bad for people and most people don’t realize how bad Vaping is for your health. Water vapor coating a persons lungs is a one way ticket to Mercury poisoning.

  8. Willim • May 18, 2018 @ 3:37 PM

    Final Destination Reboot anyone?

  9. Drax • May 18, 2018 @ 5:11 PM

    Hey, Rob. It’s quite a simple thing: if you use standard, lower-power e-cigs (ie. the ones that don’t even LET you change the voltage), it is EXTREMELY unlikely that this will happen to you. Y’know, about as likely as accidentally dropping your glass bottle full of liquid, and it breaking, causing glass shards to fly everywhere, with one ricocheting off the wall to slice through the blood veins in your neck.

    Y’know what’s also extremely unlikely? Mercury poisoning from water. It’s so unlikely, that it’s impossible. Also, how ‘bad’ is vaping for your health? There haven’t really been too many studies saying anything of the sort yet, and those that DO say so found that the health problems only really happened due to e-cig users buying ‘higher power’ e-cigs that let you increase the voltage. Which, of course, is super-dangerous – instead of inhaling nicotine-laden water vapour (or non-nicotine, if you’re just vaping for fun), you inhale superheated steam that burns your throat.

  10. marie • May 21, 2018 @ 3:51 PM

    RIP Tallmadge Wakeman D’Elia.

    My condolences to all who loved him…terrible tragedy that happened.
    He is at peace now!

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