Mandy Vearncombe, 45, from Somerset speaks out about her husband's horrific ordeal...


I’d just got out of the shower when I heard the panicked noise from downstairs.

‘Mandy, come here!’ my husband James, 50, called. ‘I’ve burned myself!’

What? How had he done that?

We were going out, so I knew he wasn’t cooking.

I rushed down to the living room and couldn’t believe what I was seeing.

James’ jeans were in tatters around his thighs and the room smelt like acrid smoke.

‘What happened?’ I asked, mystified.

But James was in too much pain to talk.

I followed him into the kitchen, where he picked up the full washing-up bowl and emptied it over his legs.

I still couldn’t figure out what was going on but I knew I had to do something…

‘Come with me,’ I said, leading James out onto the patio.

There, I fired the hose at his burned leg, which gave him a tiny bit of relief.

Finally, he could explain…

‘It was my e-cigarette battery,’ James began. He’d been charging it upstairs, then popped it in his jeans.

By the time he’d reached the ground floor, he could feel it getting hot.

‘And before I could get it out of my pocket, it exploded,’ he told me, describing how flames had shot down his leg like a Roman candle firework.

By now, we’d taken off what was left of his jeans and I could see the black, charred flesh on James’ right thigh.

‘I’m calling an ambulance,’ I said.

Before long, James was being rushed to a local hospital by paramedics, with me following behind.



When I arrived, he was already in the Serious Injuries Unit.

They’d never dealt with anything like it before.

‘We’ve got you an appointment at the Burns Unit at Southmead Hospital, Bristol, tomorrow morning,’ a doctor told us.

And, after bandaging James up and giving him painkillers, we were sent home.

That night, we hardly slept.

James had been using various types of e-cigarettes for five years. He’d had his current one for around 18 months. And nothing like this had happened before.

‘But it could have been so much worse,’ James said bravely.



What if the house had caught fire? Or he’d been even more badly burned?

Still, he was in agony.

Next morning I drove James to Southmead, where he saw specialist burns doctors. They confirmed he had third-degree burns nearest the explosion site by his pocket, as well as second-degree burns along the rest of his leg.

Straightaway, they were talking operations and skin grafts.

But there was a problem.

‘Are you allergic to anaesthetic?’ the anaesthetist asked.

‘My twin brother is,’ said James.

It meant there was a risk he’d get a severe reaction, which would cause his temperature to rocket if they put him under.

So instead of surgery, nurses took poor James into the shower every day and peeled off the burned, dead skin, exposing new skin underneath.

He only had gas and air.

‘Ouch!’ I winced when I saw his red-raw flesh.

But, thankfully, he was discharged just four days on.

Now, with painkillers, he’s coming along nicely – though doctors say he’ll have scars for years, maybe forever.

One thing’s for sure, though. James will never pick up an e-cigarette again.