Did an iPhone 5 charger electrocute a Chinese woman?

By , Jul 15, 2013

iPhone charger

Was a Chinese stewardess, just weeks from her wedding, electrocuted by her iPhone 5 charger? That’s the claim Apple is investigating following a report widely distributed across a Chinese social media site.

Ma Ailun, a 23-year-old China Airlines flight attendant reportedly died after being electrocuted Thursday when she answered a call using her iPhone 5 that was recharging. The message was reposted more than 3,000 times on Weibo, China’s microblogging site…

According to the South China Morning Post, Ailun died after picking up what family said was a genuine iPhone 5 which was plugged into a wall charger. Other family members said on Weibo that the young woman had just stepped from a bath, according to Fortune.

Both the handset and charger were turned over to local police. Although the authorities confirmed the death, “they could not identify the source of the current that killed her,” Fortune reported.

Apparently hoping to get ahead of the story, Apple issued a statement, saying the iPhone maker was “deeply saddened” by her death and pledging to “fully investigate and co-operate with authorities.”

On another issue related to the iPhone which later was widely circulated in the Chinese media, Apple CEO Tim Cook was forced to publicly apologize in order to smooth relations. China has become a huge market for Apple. The iPhone 5 Ma Ailun used was reportedly still under warranty.

While warnings went across across that country to never use a recharging device, lest possible shock, it is unclear whether the handset or charger was in fact genuine.

There have been multiple reports of fake chargers made in China, bearing the Apple logo. In 2012, local UK police investigated a man shocked by a fake charger he purchased.

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  • macboy74

    She died for getting shocked by a 110 watt plug? Smh if so I should’ve been dead years ago now. I must’ve been zapped 20 times by a 110 in my life and once by a 220 outlet that sent me on my arse. My guess is it was a $0.99 charger from eBay or some corner store in china. All in all sad that someone has died.

    • Patrick

      same here however i was struck by a 260watts when i was rerouting the plug cables in my house, and forgot to turn the main master switch off

    • 7abib0

      totally agree! Sometimes I get a call while I’m in a shower so I try to dry my hand a little bit but it’s still wet and use the phone while it’s charging and nothing happens to me. Probably there were some holes in the cable.

    • STK10

      Youre thinking of Volts. 110v sockets have about 15-20amps coming out of them. so your socket could output 2400 watts. 240v sockets output less amps (10-15) so less deadly usually. 15-20 amps can kill you so yes you are lucky to be alive and i would recommend you stop shocking yourself.

      • Joshua Catimpo

        It says in the news that she “answered the phone call while plugged in after taking a shower”

        So it means she is still wet( lol)

        and you giys should stop bragging about how you can survive with a 110 watt charger

        And the news said that the charger was being sent to apple to investigate but its obvious that its a china made charger not hy apple, so
        Its basically her fault

      • bn326160

        Most Apple products are made in China ;)

      • Sienna

        including the fake ones not designed or approved by them

      • Joshua Catimpo

        Apple stuff are made from US, assembled in china ( though i get your point “made” which is assembled)

      • bn326160

        Apple stuff is designed in the USA and most of the time still assembled in China (though I get your point where “made” is designed)

        :)

      • Jimothy

        10 to 15 amps? Its possible to be killed by half an amp. Unless you were speaking of milliAmps and just forgot to add that. It really just depends on how you were shocked, and if you were grounded.

      • Steroc

        You really have no understanding of electrical circuits do you? Sockets don’t have any Amps coming out of them. Amps is the current flow which cannot happen if there isn’t a complete circuit (i.e. nothing plugged into the socket = 0 Amps).

    • Singularity19

      they use 220-240v plugs in china

    • cottage McKay

      Its the amps that kill you not the watts or volts…

  • Rowan09

    Sorry to hear about her death. How is it that no one mentioned the S3 or S4 I don’t remember that caught fire in a girls pocket and gave her 2nd degree burns? It’s crazy as stated by macboy74 that she would die from such a shock.

    • bn326160

      Because we’re on an iDevice blog.

  • Huey Benitez

    Totally insensitive comment: Is this how Samsung make Apple look bad? Black propaganda? Try harder, Samsung, try harder.

    • Vitaliy Anonymous

      Hate to be that guy, but that is the most invalid conspiracy theory I have heard.

  • Cameron Nottingham

    So sorry to hear that she died but the iphone charger does not have enough amps to kill you. Voltage isnt what kills you. Amperage does. Might have been an outlet failure or a non-apple charger

    • STK10

      if she was dripping water down her hand/arm and it reached the socket i would assume the current could travel back up the water and fry her hand and head. Freak accident but still possible.

    • geekinit

      Everyone always says the amps kill you but the amps won’t go through you without enough voltage behind them. Seems like we’re missing a piece of the truth in this story.

      • Cameron Nottingham

        True. But plenty of voltage in a wall socket

      • Rowan09

        Voltage shoots you away and amps hold you.

      • Jimothy

        You can have low voltage and high amprage. I do believe, however that amps are required to make voltage deadly. It takes not even half an amp to kill.

      • geekinit

        But also…voltage is required to make the amps deadly. You could have 10 million amps and 1 nanovolt and the amps wouldn’t be able to kill you. I just don’t get why people believe this saying “the amps kill you”. You must have both sufficient voltage potential and sufficient amps.

    • Jimothy

      Since she had water on the inside and outside of her body, she become a super conductor of sorts (not an actual super conductor, but for our purpose lets call it that.)

  • Amad

    I thought apple’s prices will start kill people first. Hope apple get fined for it.

  • Tardroid

    This is a shame, but death by electrocution in the bath isn’t uncommon.

    1. Never EVER use electrical devices of any kind in or near a bath.
    2. Make sure your outlets near water (bath, kitchen, garage, outdoor, etc) have GFCI. If not, RETROFIT.
    3. Test your GFCI outlets periodically. If they fail to test properly, REPLACE.

    • STK10

      Good advice. Here in australia electrocutions arent as common because all houses must be fit with appropriate safeguards to stop this very thing from happening. Plus we have less amps coming out of the sockets.

      • Steroc

        Sockets don’t give out Amps. It’s the resistance of the appliance plugged in that determine the amps used. This is the primary reason for fuses, to break the circuit and protect the wiring should too much current flow

      • http://theeyesofmarch.wordpress.com/ Timothy

        What do you mean, they “don’t give out amps”? It sounds like you’re confused as to what that means. Amperage is simply a measure of current; it isn’t a thing that can be “given out”. Sockets conduct electricity, and this current they produce has some amount of voltage and some amount of amperage.

      • Steroc

        So you asked what I mean by they don’t give out Amps then go on to say that Amps can’t be given out. Think it’s you that’s confused as to what my point is. I was replying to the person who stated they have less amps coming out of sockets. As you say Amps is the current which requires a complete circuit to flow so a plug socket with no plug in has no complete circuit therefore has zero Amps as there is no current flow. Also you’re last sentence makes no sense, reread it and see if you can spot the mistake apart from it being nonsense.

        The second part of my comment I could have possibly worded better. Was basically trying to say that because let’s say a socket is rated at 13 amps, it doesn’t means that no more than 13 amps will pass through it. Whatever current the appliance plugged requires will be drawn through whether it be 10 amps or 30 amps which why fuses are there too break the current flow to prevent damage to the wiring and equipment should too much current flow.

    • Jimothy

      We just do a GFCI breaker for the water bound areas of my house.

    • bn326160

      I use my iPhone (water-resistant case) and bluetooth speaker all the time while taking a bath. :p

      • JL

        Shut up!! Not funny at all someone just died.. Asshole

  • STK10

    This article seems to be making out that someone is blaming apple when really it should be reading as more of a coincidence and accident. The current coming out of the charger cant kill you, BUT the current from the outlet itself can. So did she drop the phone in the bath? probably not because they would have figured that out at the scene. Faulty outlet with no kill switch on the house sent the full current through the cable somehow maybe? Was she dripping water down the cable as she spoke on the phone and it reached the outlet? freak accidents are still possible. Until you know all the facts its best not to make all these judgements about people.

    If any of the commenters that dont believe you can die from a 110v outlet please grab a fork and jam it into a socket for a few seconds then re-comment….. oh wait you wont be able to. Disregard that.

    • pegger1

      Dropping the phone in the bath wouldn’t do it because it was low voltage/current.

      The issue without a doubt has to be the charger (genuine or not). The phone can’t pull more power. Even a power surge in the outlet should be stopped by the charger.

  • Maxim∑

    then some people complain that Apple puts a chip blocking 3rd party unauthorized chargers, well here is the reason…

    • STK10

      People wouldnt complain if the chargers were priced fairly.

      But i get your message there, its apples fault for having over priced accessories making cheaper 3rd party ones way more attractive hence causing her death. Elementary my dear Watson.

      • Maxim∑

        maybe things that are higher quality are more expensive. And apparently she was in the bath and got out to go answer the phone not sure if its true but it would make sense because a real 5 volt 1 amp charger doesn’t kill you

      • pegger1

        You’re assuming the charger is knock of, even though that hasn’t been stated.

        Regardless of the charger, it’s still plugged into full power. I wouldn’t touch anything plugged into a wall if I was wet out of the bath, regardless if the item is genuine or not.

      • Jimothy

        It takes half an amp to kill.

      • Maxim∑

        Yeah 100mA

      • Jimothy

        Although some people can take up to 500mA. Which is weird.

    • Kurt

      On my 3GS, here in Korea, I would get shocked when I would put the phone to my ear. It was a very sharp pain. Never had a problem with my 4S. But the shock I would get from the 3GS was painful and would last as long as the bezel was touching my ear.

  • jocastro

    yeah the media makes it bigger then it seems, without the right details. lol i been shocked by a freaking taser and im still alive lol,

    • Kurt

      But you look like a zombie ;)

  • ipjur

    “Family members said on Weibo that the young woman had just stepped from a bath.” Maybe the water that was dripping from her arms got to the socket…y’all know what happens next

  • Tom

    Asians…

    • J™

      u have something against asian?

      • Sienna

        I do .. we are very closed

  • http://www.funtechblog.wordpress.com./ Bobby McBobson

    This is what happened:
    Phone: ring ring
    Girl: hello–tzztztztztzzzzzzztztzzzz
    person she was talking to: u there?

  • Marilyn Kaye Muma-Reid

    Even if it was a faulty charger it still was only a 110v plug. WTH????

    • JL

      In china its 220-240 oulets

  • Cho

    looks like she had a “drop” call. And I didn’t know they had ATT service there. :)

  • Reneiver

    Of course that iPhone 5 was still under warranty it hasn’t even been a year since it launched

  • J™

    they sure it is an iPhone and not a china copy imitation that electrocuted her?
    anyways i think it is always safe to unplug to answer if u are charging

    • Kurt

      Here in Korea, my 3GS plugged in would shock me. When I used to put it to my ear I would have sharp pain from being shocked. It scared me as it was painful. No problems with my 4S. Hopefully the guy I sold my phone to is still alive :-s

  • sguyx

    Same time in Finland:
    http://www.iltasanomat.fi/kotimaa/art-1288582526949.html

    13 years old boy got to a hospital over night because the iphone 5 charger flamed. The boy got electric shock and got burn on his arm.

    On the picture: Superintendent Jari Tuomi from TUKES is showing the apple iphone 5 charger.

    Finnish Safety and Chemical Agency (TUKES) is now investigating the charger.
    http://www.tukes.fi/en/

  • Toby Kazeil

    Lol bye Apple

  • Roland Adi Nugraha

    Hello Ed, regarding to your article, here is more detailed explanation about non original charger by kensheriff…

    http://www.righto.com/2012/10/a-dozen-usb-chargers-in-lab-apple-is.html?m=1