Family of shock victim to Apple: We demand answers

Family of shock victim to Apple: We demand answers

Summary: The family of a Chinese flight attendant who appeared to be fatally electrocuted by her Apple iPhone look to its maker after police found no faults with the charger.

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TOPICS: China, Apple, iPhone
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Photo of Ma and her husband courtesy tech.qq.com

Four days shy of her 23rd birthday, and 28 days before her highschool sweetheart planned take her to the altar, South China Airline flight attendant Ma Ailun died in her home, alone.

When her husband An Tao, a taxi driver who also worked at his family’s restaurant in an attempt to save up for their wedding, rushed home in the early hours of July 12, he found his wife lying on the bed, with a charging Apple iPhone 4 stuck to the right side of her neck.

The surrounding skin was black and burnt. Ma was still lifeless when authorities arrived. She was pronounced dead.

"Her right index finger and left big toe were incinerated from above the last joint," An said in an interview with Ren Min Wang, a national news website. "Apple must give an answer!"

The grieving husband certainly never expected to see "Stewardess electrocuted on iPhone" in the news headlines, with the subject be his wife-to-be.

Police and electricity experts conducted investigations of the scene on the same day Ma died, according to a report published by iYaXin, a local website. They found no problem with the circuitry in the house. They also found no fault with the phone's charger.

Oddly, the phone—with cracks on both sides and the buttons burnt—could still make phone calls, police reported.

So where to place the blame? And was it a genuine Apple product, or a faulty copy?

According to Ma's family, the phone was purchased at a price of RMB 3,700 (US$603) at the end of 2012 at Zhong Quan Square, a shopping mall in the heart of Urumqi, capital of the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region in West China.

"The price suggests that the iPhone should be a genuine Apple product," the spokeswoman of a local Apple after-sale service center told iYaXin. She expressed her condolences and suggested Ma's family take the phone to the the service center and get inspected. If the device is confirmed to be a genuine Apple product, it can be reported to Apple China headquarters.

Ma's family said they turned the phone over to police, and have requested further investigation.

Topics: China, Apple, iPhone

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54 comments
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  • Wow

    Now this is a mystery. If there was nothing wrong with the transformer or the local electrical system I am at a loss what happened.
    I think the battery can store a lot of energy, but given it was being charged at the moment it was most likely close to empty.
    Besides, it takes a lot of energy (most likely high voltage too) to burn someone.
    This may be really hard to explain.
    kirovs@...
    • it might not have been an accident

      but some crime dissguised with the charger.
      LlNUX Geek
      • That was my first thought as well...

        Along with that burnt finger and toe, there should be something burnt very close to the finger and something burnt very close to the toe. If there isn't, then the body has been moved from the place of death and placed on her bed. There is nothing that explains why the phone was fused to her neck. If she was shocked through the phone, then she would have a burnt finger OR a burnt toe, there should only be one exit for the electricity... I would say she was electrocuted more than once and her body was placed on the bed post mortem. Either she was a tortured spy, or she has a psycho for a husband, or she really pissed off the Yakuza. Maybe she was a mule that lost her payload and some druglord didn't like her sass.
        i8thecat4
    • Lightning can do this.

      Most people don't know that you're not supposed to bathe, shower, or use a landline during a thunderstorm.

      I'm curious to know if there were any fuses or circuit breakers in her home.
      msalzberg
      • See Xtream101 comment

        See Xtream101 comment
        xtream101
      • Hmm....

        They said that nothing was faulty with the electrical in the house, which means that there should have been fuses or circuit breakers to prevent this kind of thing from happening.

        I am wondering if maybe the phone was genuine, but the charger was a fake?
        cmwade1977
        • The charger issue was the firt thing to occur to me

          And that does sound like a enormous amount of current, not to trip a breaker. With that kind of heat, you'd think a fire would have started in the room.
          mdsock@...
    • I agree, it's a myster, but it does really sound suspicious

      The "iPhone 4 'stuck' to the right side of her neck.

      "Her right index finger and left big toe were 'incinerated' from above the last joint"

      with cracks on both sides and 'the buttons burnt—could still make phone calls', police reported.

      The amount of voltage/current and time needed to cause damage like this to a human on such a large surface area of their skin would surely exceed the capacity of the thin gauge wire in a charger to sustain for that length of time. Yet they say it works fine. I've seen someone who was struck by lightning and nearly died, and no part of his body was incinerated. Severely burnt, yes, but not incinerated. Or that word could be something lost in translation.

      Also, with simple electronics like this, the norm is that it either works, or it doesn't, there's usually no in between (unless the wire is broken, which can give you and open or closed circuit depending how it's bent). Doesn't sound like the case, but not sure if they've opened the charger up for inspection.

      Also, if she was talking on the phone at that time, wouldn't someone be on the other end? What do they have to say? Unless it was charging and she rolled over it, as I'm not sure why it was stuck to her neck, not her head.

      From all I've read, things just aren't adding up at this point in time.
      William Farrel
  • "Her right index finger and left big toe were incinerated from above"

    With no report of a brown out or black and sudden surge of energy the battery could have overloaded and release a large charge. Weird the phone still worked. Was it humid? Did she have a metal frame on the beds headboard bed thus if her foot was touching the metal and the backside of the bed was near an outlet it can arc without leaving a mark on the outlet. Were her hand moist maybe just washed her hands before placing a call. Guarantee she was barefoot and made contact with metal frame explaining the burnt toe. The phone was still working because it was drawing power from the charger and not the battery. Battery most likely solidified and pass the remaining current on explaining why the phone still worked. This can replicated. Most likely battery was defective. JUST SAYING.
    xtream101
    • You make way too many assertions with NO evidence to support any of it.

      Let's leave the investigation to the police and apple. Enough with the rumors already.
      Hang-em, Hang-em high!
      • Electricity always follows the least path of resistance

        Whatever electrocuted her went from her finger straight down to her left big toe or vs versa .
        xtream101
        • wrong

          Electricity always follows the path of least resistance. Not. Electricity always follows the least path of resistance as you put it.
          dfruk@...
        • Big Toe may have been mistranslated for Thumb, Incinerated for Burnt

          I think more likely the phone burnt the index and thumb which is what she used to hold onto the phone, rather than her toe...although it is possible that the electrical discharge crossed her body from one finger to the other side's toe to the ground...there have been cases of samsung s3 phones exploding and burning while in a pocket and badly burning the user. While the circuitry in the house may have appeared fine after the fact to investigators, I do not doubt that especially in a remote part of China that the stability of the elecitrical power grid system in that country leaves a lot to be desired from what I have read.
          gfunkw
    • Ürümqi is in a desert

      ...so humidity is always very low. If the climate had anything to do with it (static charges, perhaps), iPhone owners in Phoenix, Las Vegas or Riyadh should be worried...
      goyta
    • NOT, most likely

      More likely that wall current passed through the charger, into the metal frame of the phone and found a ground path through her toe. What the article did NOT say was where she was in the home or whether she had been wet at the time. There should have been reportable indications that she'd just taken a shower or was otherwise wet which could have an effect on the results.
      Vulpinemac
    • You fail to understand the basics of electronics

      The battery never has a lethal potential. Period.

      Potential = for elec the difference in voltage between two points.

      Current = A measure of the number of electrons passing a point over a period of time.

      Resistance = The resistance to the flow of electrons.

      Once you understand what each of those means, you will understand that the iPhone and it's battery could NOT have done this. Period.
      timspublic1@...
      • "The battery never has a lethal potential.

        This statement is FALSE!

        'HINT': "Instantaneous Discharge"

        You'll be amazed by the discharge produced by a dead short on a dry cell!
        Mujibahr
        • different battery though

          also phone batteries are not capable of "Instantaneous Discharge"

          the most that can happen and only in certain types of batteries is that it can blowup.
          which is obiously not the case here as the police found the phone still working.
          if battery had blown up it would have destroy the phone.
          vl1969
          • "also phone batteries are not capable of "Instantaneous Discharge" "

            "Top

            What's the maximum instantaneous discharge current of Ni-MH battery cells?

            The Ni-MH battery cell can be discharged at 5C~10C condition for several seconds. For example, an ED2000mA battery cell (capacity: 2Ah) can output 10A~20A current (2Ax5 ~ 2Ax10) if the discharge does not last for too long. This makes Ni-MH good for many high current applications, such as power hand tools and UPS.
            Top

            What's the maximum fast discharge current of Ni-MH battery cells?

            The Ni-MH battery can be discharged at 3C~5C condition for 12~20 minutes. For example, an ED1600AA battery cell (capacity: 1.6Ah) can continuously output 4.8A~8A current (1.6Ax3 ~ 1.6Ax5) for 12~20 minutes.
            Top

            What the maximum discharge current of Li-ion battery?

            About 1C for continuous discharge and 3C for instantaneous discharge. But these numbers can be changed by re-designing the battery."


            http://www.allproducts.com/ee/edancell/supplier_faq.html#5

            Wanna Try Again?
            Mujibahr
          • Ohms Law

            Unless she became a really good conductor you could not get that current which is governed by voltage and resistance. 12v to obtain a current of 4 amp requires a resistance of 3 ohms internal battery resistance is around 3 ohms. In other words a direct short. Normal skin resistance is in the 20,000 ohm range. Add the fact she was on a bed you need a circuit for any current to flow, when found the whole thing is very suss. I would be checking the earth circuit on the electric water heater.
            JamesGBC