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Teenager dies after being electrocuted by her iPhone charger while she slept

By midian182 · 67 replies
Nov 16, 2017
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  1. A teenage girl who was sleeping next to a damaged iPhone charging cable has died after rolling over it and being electrocuted. Police from the Hoan Kiem district of Vietnamese capital Hanoi said a tear in the rubber casing might have revealed live wires that killed 14-year-old Le Thi Xoan.

    It appears that Xoan regularly plugged in her iPhone 6 and slept next to the handset while it was charging. Her parents discovered she was unconscious and rushed the schoolgirl to the local hospital where they were unable to revive her. Medics confirmed electrocution as the cause of death.

    As you can see from the photo above, the cable was damaged, and it appears someone had tried to repair it with some clear tape.

    Authorities still haven’t confirmed if the cable was an official Apple product or part of a third-party knockoff, but given how much shorter it looks than one of Apple’s cables, it seems the latter option is most likely. Moreover, the tragedy was almost certainly due to a faulty USB power adaptor allowing the full mains voltage to travel through the cable.

    Back in December last year, the UK Standards body revealed that 99 percent of fake Apple chargers sold were unsafe. They are often poorly built with inferior or missing parts, flawed designs, and inadequate electrical insulation.

    In March, a coroner said Apple’s devices should come with warnings not to charge them in bathrooms after a man was electrocuted and died when his iPhone charger touched the bathwater he was lying in.

    “[iPhones] seem like innocuous devices but they can be as dangerous as a hairdryer in a bathroom. They should carry warnings. I intend to write a report later to the makers of the phone,” said Dr. Sean Cummings.

    Permalink to story.

  2. EClyde

    EClyde TS Evangelist Posts: 1,600   +573

    The dangers of ripping people off by charging way to much for a legit charger
  3. Skidmarksdeluxe

    Skidmarksdeluxe TS Evangelist Posts: 8,647   +3,283

    It is tragic, but if it happened to thousands of others it would just be another statistic. Now who in their right minds sleeps with their phones, let alone a charging one, in their bed? Although most people sleep with their phones nearby them, I leave mine in another room altogether when at home.
    Stark likes this.
  4. Capaill

    Capaill TS Evangelist Posts: 709   +351

    Many people sleep with the phone beside them or under a pillow. And many of the sleep apps require the phone to be on the bed so the phone's gyroscope or accelerator can monitor your sleep by your movements. I sleep with it on the far side of a bedside table but it's still within arm's reach.
    I'm not sure if we can conclude that this is a knock-off cable based purely on the length of the cable in the photograph as I can see a loop to the side which suggests some of the cable's length is outside of the photo.
    TempleOrion and spectrenad like this.
  5. tomkaten

    tomkaten TS Maniac Posts: 243   +160

    Wait, the adapter gets 230V from the mains, but supplies 5V and 1 or 2A. If the cable gets split at the lightning connector end, how can it kill a person ? It was probably an issue with the adapter itself, not the cable, right ?
  6. sac39507

    sac39507 TS Addict Posts: 219   +83

    The real problem was that it was damaged and was "repaired" with clear tape. I wouldn't even do that with an authentic charger.
    mbrowne5061 and bolski like this.
  7. Anton Skryaga

    Anton Skryaga TS Enthusiast Posts: 38   +17

    Yes, looks like adapter problem. Properly designed charger must be "galvanic isolated" from 230V network. Many cheap chargers are not, and they may be dangerous to touch even "low voltage" side of circuit.
    TempleOrion likes this.
  8. Skjorn

    Skjorn TS Maniac Posts: 301   +165

    I think there was no step down of the voltage happening, wire carried as much as possible.
    I use mine for an alarm. Your comment makes you sound 80years old.
    alabama man likes this.
  9. Kibaruk

    Kibaruk TechSpot Paladin Posts: 3,637   +1,105

    You can always read the actual news and get all the answers.
    Even then, the charger should not deliver enough energy to kill someone, in the end it's just a cable that transmits energy, the faulty thing was the one that converts the wall energy into usable energy for the phone.
    TempleOrion and antiproduct like this.
  10. bolski

    bolski TS Booster Posts: 64   +74

    How about NOT sleeping with your phone? I mean, really? In fact, you shouldn't be charging your phone overnight while you sleep. The possibility of a fire, etc while you sleep is there. Also, if it tops off in the middle of the night, yes the charger will stop charging until it senses that it falls below 100%. Then it will start charging again. So you could be topping off your battery multiple times during the night which CAN lead to reduced battery life.

    If my phone is at 50% or higher before I go to bed, I don't charge it (Samsung S7). It usually drops 3 to 5% over night. I can then charge it while at work or driving to work.

    I feel sorry for the girl's family, but this is an issue if someone MUST sleep with their phone in their bed. And if she fell asleep while using it (which is possible in this situation), then don't have it plugged in.
  11. fimbles

    fimbles TS Evangelist Posts: 1,187   +207

    The only way this could have happened is if there was a bleed from the input coil to the output coil.

    The output coil would burn out very quickly in this case. Breaking the circuit.

    There must have also been a path to ground, Metal bed frame?

    Really really bad luck.
  12. antiproduct

    antiproduct TS Booster Posts: 80   +56

    This reminds me, I need to replace my real iPhone cable next to my bed because the rubber around the end has all come off, because the rubber in Apple chargers really sucks. Granted the 5V 1A charger is still fine, but still. My guess is that this was a real Apple cable.
  13. Skidmarksdeluxe

    Skidmarksdeluxe TS Evangelist Posts: 8,647   +3,283

    I don't need an alarm but you are correct in a way. I'm closer to 80 than 18.
  14. Uncle Al

    Uncle Al TS Evangelist Posts: 4,596   +3,057

    @ Skidmarksdeluxe ..... LOL .... you tell 'em!
  15. VitalyT

    VitalyT Russ-Puss Posts: 4,169   +2,609

    Was the clear tape an Apple product also? Should sue them twice then.
  16. wiyosaya

    wiyosaya TS Evangelist Posts: 3,169   +1,618

    I've got an alarm app that I use when I am away from home. It is loud enough that I do not need to keep it in my bed to hear it.

    For me, my phone is off when I go to bed. Sleep is a priority for me, and my thoughts are that anyone that keeps their phone with them in their bed may be sacrificing sleep for whatever they might be doing with their phone.

    Then again, I also do not have a TV in my room, either. Having no electronic devices in my room, or my bed for that matter, makes for a better night's sleep. All the stuff that I might be experiencing while I am trying to sleep will still be there when I wake.
  17. wiyosaya

    wiyosaya TS Evangelist Posts: 3,169   +1,618

    Considering that it only takes about 5ma to kill someone and that 0.005 x 240 is only 1.2W (which is actually not the correct W calculation; because mains are AC voltages the power is actually lower), the coil might not burn out as easily as you think. Also, the path back to ground is through the cable as the cable itself has a ground in it. Typically, the ground on charging circuits is connected to mains ground for safety purposes.

    It is highly unlikely that it is the fault of the cable as several others have stated. The better question is was the charger an approved crApple charger, and if so, did it even have an isolation transformer in it. Charging converters these days do not need to have an isolation transformer; they could potentially just have a switching circuit with a power transistor who's input is directly connected to the mains. The problem with this is that if the transistor develops a short-circuit or the regulator somehow becomes faulty, then mains voltage may very well be on what is supposed to be only 5V and so is also flowing through the cable. If 99 percent of fake crApple chargers are faulty, it is highly likely that this was a fake crApple charger and was faulty. People who are making fake crApple chargers are highly unlikely to care at all about whether their chargers are safe.
    Last edited: Nov 16, 2017
  18. mbrowne5061

    mbrowne5061 TS Evangelist Posts: 1,057   +560

    Applied to the right location - directly across the heart - a AAA battery has enough energy to kill you. Don't take electrical safety lightly.
    TempleOrion and wiyosaya like this.
  19. Skjorn

    Skjorn TS Maniac Posts: 301   +165

    And you would think that after the long time you have been here that you would have realized by now that people do things differently than you do. It just makes you look like an ol grumpy geezer man. I know its weird but you actually talked **** on the intelligence/sanity of a dead 14 year old girl by sayin "who in their right mind."
    TempleOrion and Skidmarksdeluxe like this.
  20. Igrecman

    Igrecman TS Maniac Posts: 245   +144

    I wonder which government will be the first to prohibit portable phones in bed.
  21. p51d007

    p51d007 TS Evangelist Posts: 1,749   +1,028

    How the heck is this the fault of the maker of the device, when someone tried to "repair" it using "scotch tape"?
    The thing I want to know, is how the DC voltage/current coming from that charger, electrocuted her?
    Unless there was a neutral-hot reverse, she was laying in water or on a metal bed, how did DC voltage kill her?
  22. p51d007

    p51d007 TS Evangelist Posts: 1,749   +1,028

    That's what I would like to know also. As most people don't understand, voltage isn't what kills you. It's the current.
    jobeard likes this.
  23. wiyosaya

    wiyosaya TS Evangelist Posts: 3,169   +1,618

    There may have been AC voltage there if the charger was faulty.

    Skin is conductive. Perhaps she was sweating.

    According to this article, the exact cause of death has yet to be determined. https://cnews.canoe.com/CNEWS/World/2017/11/16/22765363.html?cid=rsshomepage
    Without the exact cause of death, this article is click-bait.
  24. bexwhitt

    bexwhitt TS Guru Posts: 394   +99

    Making such a AC tiny charger that is safe takes some clever electrical engineering, something a cheap knockoff will never have.
    To answer the question this must be a knockoff a proper charger would be safe regardless of a damaged cord.
  25. bexwhitt

    bexwhitt TS Guru Posts: 394   +99

    A proper charger has complete separation of the AC from the DC side and will be safe regardless what you plug in.
    p51d007 likes this.

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