Mobile phone and wireless
Posted by Danwei on Wednesday, February 4, 2009 at 3:51 PM
An electronics shop assistant in Guangzhou was killed last week when his mobile phone reportedly exploded. This was not the first report of a mobile phone battery exploding, but in this case the deceased had apparently just swapped in a new battery, leaving lots of people worried about the quality and safety of their own mobile phone batteries.
However, new information has been revealed that casts doubt on the mobile-phone narrative: the following New Express article, translated by Mark Binnersley, blames homemade explosives:
Follow-up: Shop worker killed by homemade explosivesby Zhou Dabiao / NE
On Jan. 30 at the Lenovo computer store on Guangzhou Yuexiu district's Donghua Road a shop worker lost his life after his cell phone exploded in suspicious circumstances. Yesterday, a person familiar with the incident revealed that it wasn't the cell phone that had exploded but some homemade explosives that the shop worker was carrying at the time. But why would this shop worker carry explosives and why did it explode? Police are currently investigating the circumstances.
Guangdong People's Hospital medic Mr Guan recalled that after receiving the call he and colleagues rushed to the scene to administer lifesaving treatment, but the man was already dead. The medic said he could see that the cell phone's plastic was broken into pieces, adding that there was a lot of blood on the man's neck. Currently, it's already been confirmed that a main artery in the man's neck had been severed, causing massive loss of blood.
"The man's left carotid artery was split in the explosion and his breathing and heartbeat had stopped, confirming he had already died." Mr Guan said many witnesses' first reaction was that the man's cell phone had exploded, killing him. Therefore many witnesses during media interviews said the man's exploding cell phone had killed him, and police at the time did not deny this was the cause. The next day, all media reported this as the cause.
After being reported in the media, the incident attracted huge attention and many people have started to guess which brand and model of cell phone the man was using. Some people have even started to panic about cell phones, worrying that their phone might also explode. On the internet, tens of thousands of people have commented on the fatal cell phone explosion. Concerning this, journalists have interviewed a cell phone industry expert, Mr Cai. Mr Cai said that although exploding cell phone battery incidents happen from time to time, most of them happen during charging or when the phone is used for a long period and becomes hot. But this time this man had not charged the phone or used it for an extended period. Also, the shop he works in is warm in the winter and cool in the summer and doesn't possess any conditions that might cause an explosion.
Mr Cai said currently the majority of cell phones use lithium batteries and the direct reason for a lithium battery to explode is if it gets too hot and expands. Mr Cai said, "There are many reasons that a battery could overheat. Charging or long use can easily cause the battery to overheat, and this is produced by a chemical reaction. Additionally, warm environments can cause batteries to get too hot, so lithium battery instructions all warn 'do not place the battery in a warm environment or throw on fire'." Mr Cai said all media reports said that the man put the phone in his pocket and was not using it. Also the location of the incident was not a high temperature place, therefore the likelihood that the battery could explode is very small, "unless there is some outside danger that caused the battery to explode."
At around 4pm on Jan. 2, the dead man's family and workers from the store went to Baiyun police station for questioning. Journalists have learnt that the cell phone battery is not the culprit, rather it was the man's homemade explosives that he was carrying in his pocket that exploded, causing his cell phone to break into pieces. Therefore many witnesses mistakenly thought that it was the cell phone's battery that took his life. But why did this shop worker carry homemade explosives and under what circumstances did it explode? A person familiar with the incident said that for more details we will have to what for the next stage of the police investigation. An autopsy is currently being carried out and when the outcome of the investigation is clear the results will be made public through the media.
Update (JM): The New Express article uses the term 自制火药, "homemade explosives," which doesn't explain precisely what the man was doing with them in his pocket — could he have been building his own custom fireworks for the Spring Festival?
Today's Guangzhou Metro Daily goes into more detail: the man was carrying an improvised firearm in his pocket when it accidentally went off, shooting him in the neck:
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