In this photo illustration, a man smokes an E-Cigarette in London on August 27, 2014.
Dan Kitwood—Getty Images
By Eli Meixler
May 17, 2018

An exploding e-cigarette caused the death of a 38-year-old man in Florida earlier this month, according to a county medical examiner.

An autopsy report released Tuesday revealed that the explosion created a “projectile wound,” as an object penetrated the skull of St. Petersburg resident Tallmadge Wakeman D’Elia, ABC News affiliate WTFS Tampa Bay reports.

According to the Tampa Bay Times, rescuers were called to a home on May 5 that had caught fire, and police were investigating whether the blaze was caused by an e-cigarette explosion.

D’Elia, whose death has been ruled “accidental” by the Pinellas County Medical Examiner’s Office, was discovered by firefighters with burns covering 45% of his body, according to WTFS.

The case is the first death determined to be caused by an e-cigarette in the U.S., according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which had previously recorded no deaths related to e-cigarette-caused fires or explosions.

According to a July 2017 FEMA report, e-cigarette explosions are uncommon, but “the consequences can be devastating and life-altering for the victims.”

In particular, the report cited the use of lithium ion batteries in electronic cigarettes as “a new and unique hazard” that can cause the tobacco-less pens to “behave like ‘flaming rockets'” if the battery fails.

The e-cigarette responsible for D’Elia’s death, Smok-E Mountain Mech Works, is an unregulated modified model that is advertised online as lacking safety features, according to WTFS. Other e-cigarettes contain features to prevent the devices from overheating.

Write to Eli Meixler at eli.meixler@time.com.

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