North Carolina Woman Dies After Cigarette She Was Smoking Causes Her Oxygen Tank to Explode

Gabrielle Chung

A 61-year-old North Carolina woman died Tuesday morning when her lit cigarette ignited a nearby oxygen tank.

Belinda Coble caused a small fire in her Nash County home when the oxygen tank — which she was using for her medical problems — exploded, WNCN reported. Authorities told the outlet Coble had been smoking a cigarette while oxygen was being administered, which ignited her tank.

Coble’s husband, who was sleeping in another room of the house, reportedly woke up when he heard the explosion and the smoke alarm went off. According to WNCN, he extinguished the small fire and called 911.

Authorities said deputies, firefighters and EMS workers arrived to Coble’s Zebulon home before 8 a.m., where they found her dead at the scene.

Belinda Coble | Facebook
Belinda Coble | Facebook

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The home suffered minimal damage, officials said.

In July, an oxygen regulator on a transport gurney was believed to be the source of a small explosion at Norwalk Hospital in Connecticut. The explosion caused burn marks on the wall and ceiling while two people suffered minor injuries, reported WTNH.

However, according to EMS1, an online resource for paramedics, oxygen tank-related fires are more common for at-home users than emergency medical staff.

“Most instances involve the regulators and not the oxygen cylinders,” according to the guide. “Contamination in and around the regulators, or the regulators themselves are catching fire. Due to the presence of oxygen, the fires burn very quickly and appear explosive.”

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In an article for the COPD Foundation, BPR Medical Gas Control managing director Richard Radford noted there are over 180 home fires involving oxygen therapy equipment each year in the United States.

“The most important thing you can do to reduce the risk of a fire when using home oxygen, is to not smoke,” he wrote. “If you are finding it hard to give up smoking, there are many in ways in which your healthcare providers can support you, such as nicotine replacement therapy. Your relatives, visitors, carers, or neighbors should also be told to not smoke in your house.”