Like nearly all Thai teens, Thanyaluck Phadasri was addicted to her smartphone. She was listening to music on it while doing homework last week. When grandmother Nookrai called her for dinner, she found “Nong Fai” dead, electrocuted as she laid on her bed.
“I never expected something like this could happen to her,” father Thongchai Phadasri, 39, told Thai media at the Sept. 12 funeral for 16-year-old Thanyaluck, a cherub-faced photo of the 10th grader haunting the hall at the Samart District temple.
Police found that Thanyaluck had fallen asleep and rolled over on the charging cable as the phone was plugged into the wall. The plug was dislodged slightly, shocking the girl to death through her eck and arms. The charred phone was still in her hand.
It’s tempting to call the tragic incident a “freak accident” but, in fact, electrocution deaths from smartphones is freakishly common in Thailand. Since the start of 2019, at least nine Thais have died as a result of using smartphones plugged into chargers.
- In February 2019 in Nakhon Ratchasima, Kritsada Supol, 22, was found dead while holding his Samsung smartphone while it was plugged in.
- In May 2019, engineer Arun Seenuan was electrocuted in Sri Racha by headphones in his ears connected to a plugged-in smartphone.
- In June, Runroj Soha, 24, was found dead by his girlfriend in his Samut Prakan apartment, also electrocuted by headphones.
- A month later Pattaya, Aron Yohyoei, 21, was found with burns to his face and arm with a plugged-in phone next to him.
- In September last year in Chonburi, Sastra Mo-in, 25, died after falling asleep next to a mobile phone plugged into an extension cord and charging.
- In November, Nong Ying, 17, was electrocuted in Chaiyaphum while playing a game on her phone while it was plugged in to the wall with a frayed extension cable wrapped with duct tape.
- A month later, 28-year-old Kittisak Moonkitti was found dead on his bed in Chonburi after electrocution by his Android smartphone plugged into a charger.
- This year, during the lockdown in May, deliveryman Tinnakorn Rattanauppaphan, 32, died while gaming on his plugged-in phone in Nan. He was found still touching the charging cable.
- The same month, a 15-year-old boy was found dead outside an upstairs bedroom in a Rayong house lying on a phone charger that was attached to an extension cord plugged into the wall.
The overwhelmingly majority of phone-electrocution deaths can be attributed to two factors: Using cheap, knockoff chargers or using a plugged-in smartphone in bed.
According to the Chartered Trading Standards Institute in the U.K., , a whopping 98 percent of all fake Apple chargers failed basic safety tests. Tests found only three of the 400 devices tested had enough isolation to prevent an electric shock.
While genuine Apple (and Samsung) products are expensive, they cost less than a funeral. Experts urge people to use only original equipment manufacturer chargers. If you suspect a charger is fake, check the manufacturer, model number, and voltage ratings on it. If you doubt a charger’s authenticity, throw it away.
While smartphones batteries use low-voltage lithium ion batteries with only about 3.7 volts, attaching them to a charger connects the user to 240 volts through the power socket. That can be deadly if there’s a short circuit or power surge.
Experts warn never to use earbuds on a plugged-in phone and plug the phone charger into a surge-protected power strip when possible.
The danger of shocks increase when using a phone in bed when, like smoking, people die after falling asleep.
While snoozing, you may end up lying on the cord, dislodging it from the phone. One Thai died in 2017 after the “live” end of the cord touched a metal chain around his neck.
Other Darwinian things Thais have done is use their plugged in phones around water, specifically in the toilet or around the shower.
It’s not like these kinds of deaths are new, either. Media reports dating back to 2013 show the rise of smartphones has led to a rise in teens and young adults dying while using them, even when they’re not driving a car or motorbike.
“I want this to be an example for children,” Thongchai said. “Don’t be careless. Don’t plug in the charger and play with your phone. May this be the last time this happens to anyone’s daughter.”