Investigators believe a 38-year-old St. Pete man died after a vape pen he was smoking exploded.
The St. Pete Fire Rescue was called to the fire on 19th Avenue near 3rd Street around 9:45 a.m. Saturday and found the body of Tallmadge D’Elia.
Lt. Steven Lawrence said a vape pen had exploded on the second floor of the home, sparking the fire and leaving D’Elia with injuries on his face.
An autopsy will determine if the explosion killed D’Elia or if it knocked him unconscious, trapping him inside the fiery room. Investigators are also trying to determine the brand of vape pen he was using.
“They have lithium batteries in them and they can start to heat up and, if they heat up too quickly, then, the gas will ignite or explode,” Lt. Lawrence explained.
Neighbors tell us D’Elia was a nice man who lived in the home, which is owned by his parents, by himself.
“Very friendly, outgoing, just a nice neighbor you said, ‘Hello!’ to,” said Dale Kleine, who lives across the street. “We know his parents more than we know him because they have lived here longer than he has.”
Kleine said she started to worry when she saw smoke coming from the roof on Saturday morning.
“We were just hoping that nobody was home but, then, we found out that Wake was home,” she said.
Then she had to do the unthinkable—identify D’Elia’s body.
“I do not know that you can even describe it,” she tells us. “They needed somebody to do it because there was nobody else around. His parents were not around so I said I would do it.”
Both Kleine and law enforcement officials are reminding everyone to think twice before they use a vape pen.
“These things are not as safe as they think they are,” Kleine said.