New Jersey

Caught on Camera: Vaporizer Battery Explodes in NJ Woman's Purse

What to Know

  • Video captured the moment a lithium battery exploded in a New Jersey woman's purse while she was at a checkout counter
  • People in the store can be seen cowering away from the purse as a black plume of smoke rises out of it
  • Dozens of exploding e-cigarettes and vaporizers have been reported in recent years

An e-cigarette explosion at a New Jersey mall left a woman's Louis Vuitton bag smoking, startling a worker and another shopper on the anniversary of September 11.

Surveillance video captured the surprised reaction from everyone in the Sunglass Hut store at the Freehold Raceway Mall as a lithium battery exploded in Mara McInerney’s handbag. Thick, black smoke could be seen pouring out of the high-end purse.

“Terrifying, scary. It sounded like a gunshot. It sounded like a bomb went off,” McInerney said. “It was 9/11. I thought someone had put something in my bag.”

McInerney says she immediately dumped the contents onto the floor. It was then that she discovered her melted personal vaporizer and what was left of the charred battery. Heat from the blast melted holes in her Louis Vuitton Neverfull MM tote, which McInerney says she purchased last November for almost $1,900.

Lithium batteries power a great number of things because they pack a lot of energy into a little package. They are also delicate — a crack, a fray or a defect has the possibility of leading to an explosion like the one that rattled McInerney.

There have been at least two dozen incidents of explosions and fires in personal vaporizers and e-cigarettes between 2009 and 2014. A Long Island man says he was burned when an e-cigarette ignited in his pocket earlier this year. A Queens woman says she was also burned when an e-cigarette exploded. 

McInerney says there was no warning. She always stores her vaporizer safely in the pocket of her handbag. She’s just glad her 4-year-old daughter had not been reaching into her purse for a piece of candy at the time her bag blew up.

“It could have exploded in her face,” McInerney said.

No one was reported injured in the eruption.

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