WHITE HOUSE, Tenn. (WZTV) - Garrett Preston, 19, says he "got off pretty lucky" after his vape mod exploded in his pocket, leaving him with severe burns to his stomach, knee and leg. Now, he wants to share his experience in the hopes of warning others about the potential dangers.
Garrett says in September of last year, he was finishing his first full shift at the Dunkin Donuts in White House around 10 p.m. when he went to make a sandwich at the store's oven. Inside his left pocket were his car keys, phone and IPV 3 box mod--used for vaping. Three seconds into making his sandwich, Preston says a "fountain of fire" came out of his pocket.
Preston ran to the back of the store and ripped off what was left of his pants and saw his keys and vaporizer "smoking" on the ground. A co-worker rushed to the back to check on Preston and after seeing his burns called for another employee to dial 911.
He was rushed to the Vanderbilt's Burn Center, where he was treated for two third-degree burns to his upper thigh and knee, as well as a severe burn to his stomach. After 14 hours in the hospital, Preston was released, but his recovery would take a month and a week before doctors cleared him of needing a skin graft.
Preston says he thinks he knows why the vape box exploded.
"I just want to share my experience, so that other people don't make a mistake and something worse happens to them. I want to promote safety about it. These vape batteries hold about four volts and could have done serious damage to someone's face," he said.
Preston's vape box was missing the back case that covers the battery, and after it had fallen off the teen thinks his keys touching the batteries caused them to "ground out" and ignite a fire. Preston says that although the batteries are usually wrapped, cuts in the battery wrapping could expose the batteries and bring the potential for danger. As for why the battery case was off, users can change the wattage in that area of the vape with the batteries, but the screws had fallen off. Preston was using the vape without issue like this for "five or six months," until he fatefully placed his keys in his pocket next to the exposed batteries.
Despite his injuries and the scars to prove it, Preston says he is still vaping, something he originally started to quit smoking regular cigarettes. While he considers it a "safer" alternative, Preston says many of his friends vape and have done so for a while without issue. He's just the "unlucky" one to fall victim to an accident.
"A lot of these stories about vapes exploding are user error," Preston says.
He's hoping his story can help others who vape keep from making the same mistake or worse.