E-cig battery explodes in pocket of popular romance novelist at Las Vegas airport

An e-cigarette battery exploded in Scott Hildreth's pocket at McCarran International Airport. The romance novelist is recovering at the UMC Burn Unit. (KSNV/Nathan O'Neal)

LAS VEGAS (KSNV) - Fire officials believe an electronic cigarette battery exploded in the pocket of a popular romance novelist at McCarran International Airport Sunday night. The victim is now recovering at the hospital with third-degree burns and a long recovery ahead.

Scott Hildreth told News 3 that the explosion was likely caused by a spare battery from an electronic cigarette he left in his front pants pocket. However, it’s still unclear how it caught fire.

“The damage on my leg is pretty severe,” said Hildreth, speaking from his hospital room at the UMC Burn Unit. “My hand from my thumb all the way across my palm - the skin is missing and it’s a very deep burn.”

On Sunday night, Hildreth and his wife Jessica were at McCarran International Airport waiting for a flight to Florida. They were already through security when they stopped to get snacks at an airport shop.

“There was a ball of flame, the sound of explosion. I dropped to the floor, my clothes were on fire,” said Hildreth, adding that the explosion came from his front left pocket.

The Clark County Fire Department is taking the lead on the investigation. It believes a lithium battery for an e-cigarette was likely to blame. Investigators were back at the airport Tuesday but the cause of the fire has not been determined yet.

“What if this would have happened at the Strip or at a 7-Eleven or on a plane?” asked Hildreth.

Doctors told Hildreth that he might have to receive skin grafts and his recovery could be at least six months.

In the meantime, he has had to cancel at least three book signings scheduled across the country.

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