THIS is the moment a North Yorkshire barmaid narrowly escaped when an e-cigarette exploded in flames in a packed pub and rocketed towards her.

Shocked Laura Baty, 18, was serving a customer when she heard a huge bang and saw the device shoot in her direction.

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The flames singed her arms and set her dress on fire as she tried to get out of the way.

The sizzling e-cig - which had been on charge behind the bar - then landed on the floor and scorched the vinyl tiles before burning itself out.

Part of it also hit at customer at the Buck Inn Hotel in Richmond, North Yorks., and left him with a red mark in his stomach.

Laura said: "I was about to give somebody their change and I heard the bang. I could see the fire coming at me and I felt the heat as I ran away.

"I started crying hysterically and my arm was all black. My dress caught on fire as I ran away and I just didn't know what was happening.

"A customer came and took me in to the bathroom to calm me down. She washed down my arm which was all black and I still didn't know what had happened."

The Northern Echo:
The remnants of the e-cigarette which exploded

Laura, who has worked at the pub for nearly two years, was badly shaken by the explosion on Saturday.

She added: "I thought the fuse-box had blown up or a firework had gone off.

"Everybody was just so shocked."

The e-cigarette belonged to fellow barman Stewart Paterson, 21, who has been trying to quit smoking since December last year.

The Northern Echo:
The Buck in Richmond, North Yorkshire

He said: "I put the e-cigarette on charge in my iPad charger, which I have done countless times before.

"I heard a huge bang that sounded like a firework. I turned around to see a ball of fire weaving about."

The incident was captured on the pub's CCTV camera.

Mr Paterson added: "I just keep thinking what if this had happened while I was charging it at home. I might have been out and the damage could have been horrendous.

"When I looked back at the footage I saw how close the fireball came to Laura's head. If she was stood a couple of inches to the right she could have been badly hurt."

Alyson Down, Community Safety Officer at North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue, said: "The advice we give is to make sure you are nearby if you are charging up any product that requires charging from the mains.

"We strongly recommend people to not leave devices that are charging up unattended."

Richmond Fire Officer and Crew Manager Steve Bake, added: "It's very concerning.

"If that had happened in someone's house, it could have set curtains or
furniture ablaze so there is a clearly a big risk here. Especially if someone has no smoke detectors."

A spokeswoman for the manufacturer of the battery said: "We provide clear information on websites and in electronic cigarette starter kits that explain how our batteries should be charged and cared for.

"We cannot comment on the circumstance of this particular instance or make any comment on the provenance of this battery. However, it does not appear that a dedicated electronic cigarette charger was used.

"A number of independent organisations, including the fire service, have reiterated warnings that charging lithium batteries incorrectly and failing to take necessary care of these devices can lead to catastrophic failure."

Tom Pruen, chief scientific officer at the Electronic Cigarette Industry Trade Association, said: "There have been some instances of batteries failing and catching fire, similar to the way mobile phones and laptops can, because of the lithium ion battery.

"The key things to remember are to take care not to screw the charger in too far, which can break the e-cigarette, not to use a charger with too much power; and not to leave it unattended.

"It might also be worth getting a charging bag for extra safety - and make sure you buy e-cigarettes from a reputable seller."

North Yorkshire Trading Standards said it was not investigating e-cigarettes but would look into the matter if it was brought to its attention.