Just in time for Halloween, our most gruesome and morbid blog post series yet! With the rise in the number of people vaping worldwide, electronic cigarette related mishaps are also going up. Incidents range from the almost comical to the bizarre to the tragic. We investigate the reports, break down the true picture behind the statistics and let you know what you can do to make sure you and your loved ones stay safe.
For our first post in the series, we offer you a roundup of all the fires, accidents and other mischief that has occurred on airplanes or in cars due to vaping.
Vaping Behind the Wheel
There have been several road accidents attributed to vaping at the wheel. In February of this year, a traffic accident occurred in Rapid City, South Dakota involving a pedestrian. The pedestrian was in the crosswalk at the corner of Main Street and Mount Rushmore Road when they were stuck by a moving vehicle. It was determined that the crash was caused by the driver being temporarily blinded by the enormous cloud of vapor he exhaled from his electronic cigarette. The vape cloud obstructed the driver’s vision, blinding him to the road in front of him. We can chuckle about it now because fortunately, no one was seriously injured.
In another case in early January of 2016, a truck crashed on I-65 when an e-cigarette exploded while the driver was vaping behind the wheel. The truck driver careened off the road, hitting the guardrail. The driver was taken to a nearby hospital to be treated for burns to his face but, fortunately, did not suffer any further injuries from the accident. The highway was closed for three hours while authorities attempted to clear the crashed truck from the roadway. Check out the semi on the side of the road:
Vapes on a Plane
E-cigarettes have also caused a number of incidents in the air prompting authorities to ban the transportation of the devices in checked baggage (for a full run down of air travel rules and regulations pertaining to vapers, check out our blog post, “Cloud Chasers.”).
In the summer of 2016, an incident with an e-cig on a Spirit Air jet caused passengers to temporarily believe there was a terrorist incident underway. A Hollywood producer, Anthony Scott Rhulen, whose credits include the 2011 film “The Rum Diary” starring Jonny Depp and Amber Heard, was on his way from Denver to Los Angeles. A spare battery ignited in his backpack while he was in the process of boarding the plane. The fire resulted in burns to his leg, and, perhaps even more scarring for Mr. Rhulen, hysterical passengers, believing him to be a terrorist, reacted with panic.
“I don’t believe he was tackled” by panicked passengers, Rhulen's lawyer said, “but it was an extremely frightening and scary experience for him, the way he was looked upon initially.” I’ll bet! The plane was emptied of passengers, the flight was delayed for three hours and Rhulen was “treated and released by EMS at the airport,” according to a Spirit Air spokesman. A tough day all around.
In December of 2016, another vape related incident caused the emergency landing of an American Airlines flight. The flight had departed Dallas on it’s way to Indianapolis when, about an hour into the flight, an electronic cigarette fire ignited.
“I started saying a prayer. That's all I could do and believe that we were going to land..." passenger Cindy Nelson said.
Flight attendants sprang into action, extinguishing the flames with a fire extinguisher but not before the fire forced the plane to make an emergency landing in Little Rock. According to officials, the fire started when a passenger attempted to vape in the airplane’s bathroom (naughty, naughty!) and the device malfunctioned.
“It appears the device went into thermal runaway, which resulted in a small fire. Thanks to the quick actions of our crew members, the fire was extinguished," an airline spokesman stated. No word on whether the flight attendants screamed, "I've had it with these mothafuckin' vapes, on this mothafuckin' plane! Everybody strap in, I'm about to open some fuckin' windows!" while working the fire extinguisher--although that would have been awesome. Fortunately, no one was injured in the incident.
A similar incident delayed the departure of a Delta Airlines flight in March of 2016. The flight was scheduled to travel from Hartsfield Jackson Atlanta International Airport (one of the few remaining airports in the United States that has facilities for vaping inside the airport, see our blog post, U.S. Airports that Allow Vaping for a full list and map) to St. Louis. The backpack of a passenger boarding the aircraft caught fire during the boarding process. An e-cigarette in the passenger’s backpack ignited causing the flight to be delayed, although there were no injuries and no damage to the airplane. Scared passenger, Scott Criscione, tweeted out about the incident:
In another incident that underscores why TSA does not allow electronic cigarette batteries in checked baggage, in October of 2016, baggage handlers noticed smoke coming out of one of the bags they were loading onto a United Airlines flight causing delays and embarrassment for the offending passenger. This wasn't the first such incident. In 2014, firefighters were called to Logan International Airport in Boston when another electronic cigarette caused a fire in the hold.
We'll have a full run down of safety tips for vaping in an upcoming article in this series but for now, just remember, don't be that guy! Always keep your batteries with you in the main cabin, never stow them in your checked luggage!
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