updated 11:00 pm EDT, Fri July 19, 2013
30-year-old Chinese man was able to call for help, now in coma
Another report of an accidental electrocution has surfaced in China, this time a 30-year-old man named Wu Jian Tong who was stricken when plugging in an iPhone 4 using an unapproved third-party charger. The man survived the ordeal but has been comatose for the past 10 days. He was not breathing when paramedics arrived and was revived using CPR. Authorities believe his coma is due to severe oxygen deprivation to the brain. Earlier this week, a 23-year-old former air stewardess was killed when she allegedly answered a call on her iPhone using what is believed to be a non-Apple charger.
The man's sister, according to the Beijing Evening News, said that Wu had time to call out that he was getting shocked during the incident, which involved an allegedly counterfeit adapter. Wu's sister attempted to unplug the device and was herself shocked, describing "needle-like pains" in her fingertips. "The current was running from my finger, through to my arm and body, and to the foot."
This is the second time an unapproved third-party "knock-off" USB charger or adapter has been implicated in electrocutions of users in a week, both incidents in China. Ma Ailun, who was set to be married next month, was killed when she answered a call while her iPhone was charging. In her case, the family said the charger was the original that had come with the iPhone 4, but video footage of the equipment from state-owned CCTV showed a distinctly non-Apple charger. Though Apple does license some third-party companies to make approved chargers through the "Made For i" program, many more do so without official approval.
Unapproved China-made chargers have been tested in the US with various results, some being considered quite dangerous due to safety compromises made to reduce the cost. Another option being suggested is that the grounding in the homes or the chargers may be severely defective.
One MacNN reader has suggested that small-value capacitors in the counterfeit chargers could be defective, developing a short that would connect one side of the current line to the ground circuit of the iPhone, allowing large-voltage current to pass directly from the case of the device through a person's body if they are grounded, which wouldn't necessarily damage components of the phone. Ma's iPhone was seen in the CCTV report to be functioning normally, with only some scorch marks on the outside to indicate the fatal incident.
In the first incident, an investigation is still being conducted by Chinese authorities and Apple. Another investigation will likely begin over Wu's accident, and the fact that two electrocutions have happened in such a short span may suggest a bad batch of chargers are being sold. In both cases, the equipment has been turned over to police for the investigations.