Phone Explodes Killing Teen As She Sleeps

Pierre Van ZylLearn, News + Discoveries, parenting

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cellphone kills girl in her sleep

‘Dying in one’s sleep’ is often thought of as the most peaceful way to pass, if there is such a thing. Sadly, this was not the case for fourteen-year-old Alua Asetkyzy Abzalbek from Bastobe, Kazakhstan.

The teenager went to bed with her phone on her pillow, listening to music while she fell asleep. The phone was plugged into a nearby power socket, a typical scene for many people. Then the phone’s battery exploded, severely injuring Alua’s head, killing her instantly, according to the police. Her family found her in the morning and called the paramedics who could do nothing for the poor teen.

Forensic experts confirmed these statements. The phone exploded in the early morning when it overheated from charging. The brand of the smartphone was not disclosed.

Alua’s death was sudden, tragic, and painful for anyone who knew her. Her best friend, Ayazhan Dolasheva, 15, posted on social media: “I still cannot believe it. You were the best. We have been together since childhood. It is so hard for me without you. I miss you so much. You have left me forever.” [1]

The Epidemic of Exploding Phones

Unfortunately, Alua’s cause of death isn’t as unique as we’d like to believe.

Earlier this year, a man in India was being filmed on CCTV when the phone in his pocket blew up. He was working in a hardware factory beside two other colleagues when a small explosion was seen in his pants pocket. He jumps up and tries to remove the phone while it smokes intensely. When he manages to extract it from his pocket, it lies on the floor, still filling the room with smoke. The men exit quickly in fear of further explosions.

The owner of the phone got treated for burns on his leg, but fortunately, he was able to remove the phone before it caused him worse damage. [2]

Last year, a woman in Shanghai’s Minhang district in East China’s phone exploded on her car’s dashboard — while she was driving. The incident was also captured on camera and her screams reverberate in the background. 

Like the case of the factory worker and Alua, this scene also starts ordinary: a woman drives with her Apple iPhone 6 attached to the dashboard. Then it bursts into flames. The woman panics but is forced to keep driving since she’s in the middle of ongoing traffic, but the phone seems to stopped burning. Then it catches on fire again, this time without going out. The woman stops her car and runs out screaming, “My phone exploded! My phone exploded!” to passersby who are checking if she’s okay. 

The woman had the battery changed at a mobile repair shop called Hoho Fast before this event. While the company took back the phone and gave her a new battery after the explosion, they refused to fix the phone and pay for the damages to her car.

“She was driving alone; no one touched the phone,” said her husband. “It just suddenly blew up. She wasn’t charging or even using it at the time.

“When we bought the battery from Hoho Fast in February, they told us it was genuine. They’re refusing to take further responsibility and won’t compensate us. We asked them for a new phone. They say they can only give us a second-hand one. It’s like they’re squeezing us like a tube of toothpaste. They’ll squeeze us until we run out of patience and give up; then the case is closed for them.” [3]

Why Do Phones Explode

This phenomenon sounds like something out of a horror movie. “It’s an omen of the end of the world!” However, there’s a simple, scientific explanation for why phones explode.

First off, it’s important to note that in most cases it’s the battery at fault, not the phone. In the battery are separators that prevent two electrodes from connecting. When those separators have a defect in some way, the electrodes can touch and cause an explosion. This is because the electrolytes receive the energy that should be contained within the battery. These electrolytes are unstable and sensitive to heat, which causes other chemicals to produce gas that raises that increases heat and pressure, which leads to an explosion. This is what happened to the now infamous Samsung Galaxy Note 7 back in 2016. [4][5]

Most phones use lithium-ion batteries that are usually able to be overcharged safely. If a battery explodes, it is usually due to a manufacturing default. However, it’s important to note that constantly overcharging a phone can eventually hinder it’s performance. [5]

How to Prevent Phones from Exploding

The good news is that it’s highly unlikely that your phone is going to explode. There are built-in safety features to prevent these sorts of accidents. However, there are ways a phone or its battery can be damaged and affect these features.

  • Dropping and damaging the battery
    • If the battery looks swollen, deformed, or continuously overheats without reason, it’s probably damaged.
  • Hot temperatures and environments
    • This involves running multiple tabs, long phone calls, using apps that are demanding for the CPU, charging, or other natural ways a phone can heat up while sitting in direct sunlight. This may not explode a phone, but it can lead to a shortened battery life. Here’s a few ways to prevent this:
      • Remove the phone case while charging
      • Keep the phone out of direct sunlight
      • Don’t leave the phone in a hot car for long periods of time
      • Don’t charge the phone while it’s in a bag or another location that traps heat
  • Using the wrong or cheap knockoff chargers
  • Getting a phone wet
  • Battery punctures from an accident or other aggressive situation [6]
  1. Will Stewart. Daily Mail. Girl, 14, dies when her phone explodes on her pillow after she went to sleep with it plugged into a charger in Kazakhstan https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-7519625/Girl-14-dies-charging-phone-explodes-pillow-Kazakhstan.html September 30, 2019
  2. Amelia Ward. CCTV Footage Shows Man’s Smartphone Explode in Pocket https://www.ladbible.com/news/technology-cctv-footage-shows-mans-smartphone-explode-in-pocket-20190305 March 5, 2019
  3. Mischa Pearlman. Woman’s Phone Explodes In Car After She Had Battery Replaced At Unofficial Repair Shop https://www.ladbible.com/technology/viral-technology-terrifying-footage-shows-phone-bursting-into-flames-as-woman-drives-20180809 August 9, 2018
  4. https://www.theverge.com/2016/9/8/12841342/why-do-phone-batteries-explode-samsung-galaxy-note-7
  5. Press Room. The Science Behind Exploding Cell Phones http://www.towerfast.com/press/post/the-science-behind-exploding-cell-phones
  6. Ryan Dube. Why Smartphone Batteries Explode and How to Prevent It https://www.makeuseof.com/tag/smartphone-batteries-explode-prevent/ July 20,2018

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