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E-Cigarette Explodes In Man's Pants Pocket At Grand Central Terminal

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) -- Terrifying video Wednesday showed an e-cigarette exploding in a man's pocket at Grand Central Terminal.

As CBS2's Christine Sloan reported, the man was working inside a store at Grand Central when his pants suddenly caught fire Wednesday morning. By the late afternoon, the man was hospitalized for burns.

Otis Gooding was working at the cash register at Central Cellars wine store when the explosion happened. On video, it looked like a bomb went off in Gooding's pants.

Flames and sparks were seen flying from Gooding's pocket, where coworkers said he kept an e-cigarette with a battery.

"All of a sudden, I thought he had fireworks in his pocket," said coworker Jon Lee.

Lee was standing right next to Gooden, and said he could feel the heat from the fireball.

"Then we realized it was an e-vapor cigarette -- the high-powered, voltage battery," Lee said.

Metropolitan Transportation Authority spokesman Aaron Donovan said the man was taken by a private ambulance service to a local hospital. Donovan said the injuries appeared minor.
The incident had no impact on train service at the transit hub.

The e-cigarette itself was reduced to charred pieces. Co-worker John Carson said he spoke to Gooding on the phone.

"He just said his leg and his arm has second-degree burns," Carson said.

Gooding's attorney, Sanford Rubenstein, said his client actually suffered third-degree burns and was undergoing surgery late Wednesday.

"Right now, his parents and like all parts of the family is coming to the hospital, so he just asked for, like, privacy," Carson said.

This was not the first time such a thing has happened. A 14-year-old was maimed and blinded after he said an e-cigarette exploded in his hand at the Kings Plaza Shopping Center this past spring.

A Kentucky man also suffered burns when an e-cigarette battery blew up in his pocket.

At the wine store, friends were banding together to help Gooding Wednesday and even to raise money for him in hopes that he would recover.

The Tobacco Vapor Electronic Cigarette Association said it regrets such accidents, but also said they are rare.

The industry said many of the products carry high-powered batteries which could cause serious injury if not adequately protected.

Last year, the federal Department of Transportation issued a rule prohibiting passengers from packing e-cigarettes in checked luggage to protect against in-flight fires.

(TM and © Copyright 2016 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2016 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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