The case drew attention—both sympathetic and sceptical—after a woman in the western region of Xinjiang wrote about the death of her 23-year-old sister Ma Ailun.
The shocking news first came up on the Chinese microblogging site Weibo, posted Saturday under the official @Stewardess network account. The post said:
“Ma Ailun, a Southern Airline stewardess, was going be married on Aug. 8 and would have turned 24 on Aug. 16. In the evening of Jul. 11, 2013, while her authentic, less than one-year-old iPhone 5 was being charged, she was struck suddenly by a powerful electrical current…
“Just like that, she left us forever, leaving her young groom behind. Let’s all pay respect to her. We all should be careful when using Apple iPhones while they are being charged.”
Miss Ma, who was due to marry in August, was said to have bought her iPhone 5 in December from an official store in her home town in Xinjiang province.
Her brother told a Hong Kong newspaper the phone had been handed to Chinese authorities for examination.
An officer with the local Public Security Bureau said Monday that an “elementary inspection” showed the woman, named Ma Ailun, was electrocuted.
“Her neck had an obvious electronic injury,” he told China Real Time.
Beyond that, though, the official said that the case was still under investigation, and there were no more details available about whether her smartphone, the charger, or something else killed the woman.
“We will fully investigate and cooperate with authorities in this matter,” said Apple’s Beijing-based spokeswoman Carolyn Wu, offering condolences to the family.
In a country already obsessed — for good or ill – with Apple products, the news of Ma Ailun’s death spread rapidly. Within minutes, the @Stewardess network message had been reposted more than 3,000 times, along with warnings to never answer a cellphone while it’s plugged into a wall charger.
Ma’s sister warned others not to use their phones while they were charging and asked Apple to provide an explanation, saying on Weibo on Saturday: “What a shame, to pass away like this.”
Weibo users expressed concern about the potential danger but also questioned if it was real.
“If the accidents are real, let’s be more careful when using our mobiles,” one person said, but added: “Is someone trying to smear Apple?”
Over the years, there have been other reports of people being electrocuted while handling a charging cellphone. But these reports are extremely rare and they seem to always come out of India, says CNN.
China is Apple’s second largest market but the company recently came under criticism from state media in April for alleged “arrogance” and double standards, prompting an apology from chief executive Tim Cook.
In its statement, Apple said: “We are deeply saddened to learn of this tragic incident and offer our condolences to the Ma family. We will fully investigate and cooperate with authorities in this matter.”
There were also safety warnings about the millions of cheap copycat phones and chargers on the market. Apple products sell out quickly in China, the demand fuelling the factories churning out fake iPhones, iPads and iPods, writes the Daily Mail.