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10 Horrific Deaths Caused By Cell Phones

by Elliot Rosenhaus
fact checked by Micah Duke

We love our smartphones. They’re everything to us—our GPS, our video gaming device, our way to connect with the world socially, and lastly, a way to occasionally communicate when necessary. Many of us will quickly experience a panic attack if we realize that we left home without our digital companion.

Few of us would ever think that the very thing we love so much could one day lead to our death. In fact, more people are now killed in selfie-related deaths than shark attacks! Below are 10 of the most bizarre ways that people have died due to their favorite electronic devices.

10 Man Walks Off A Cliff While Using His Phone

Man falls off cliff trying to snap photo

We’re all guilty of texting and walking in our homes, at the grocery store, or maybe even at the mall. While walking and looking down at our phone, we’ve all probably bumped into someone or something, but for the most part, we manage to tear our eyes away from our phones long enough to be aware of what’s around us. Unfortunately for Joshua Burwell, he didn’t look away from his phone soon enough.

On Christmas Day 2015, Burwell went to San Diego’s scenic Sunset Cliffs, a popular spot for tourists and locals alike to view the sunset. Many people go there hoping to grab the perfect photo for Instagram and garner as many likes as possible. Burwell was no different than the many others there, but he was so glued to his phone that he didn’t realize he’d already passed the safe area of the cliff. He kept walking until he stepped right over the edge and fell 18 meters (60 ft). People nearby heard someone crying out for help, and eventually, a group made a dangerous descent down the cliffside and reached him. Sadly, he died at the scene.

Witnesses said that they saw Burwell walking toward the cliff while looking down at his phone and simply falling over the edge. “[He] wasn’t watching where he was walking; he was looking down at the device in his hands,” said lifeguard Bill Bender.

9 Man Is Killed After Using His Phone’s Tracking Feature

Teen killed after tracking down lost phone

If you’re like many people, you often misplace your phone at home. Worse, it always seems to happen when the phone is on silent or vibrate mode. For those of us prone to misplacing or losing our phones, tracking apps are the best thing that could have ever happened.

But it can be one of the worst things to ever happen, too. In February 2016, a 23-year-old man in Birmingham, Alabama, had his iPhone stolen. After remembering that he could use the phone’s tracking app to locate it, he looked it up and found that his phone was active, and he knew exactly what address it was at. Emboldened by this knowledge, he drove to the location, a suburban Baptist church parking lot. Using the tracking app, he forced his phone to ring and heard it inside the car next to him. As he was going into the car to retrieve his phone, a man shot and killed him. The young man was pronounced dead on the scene.

Police Chief Leon Davis had this to say:

If you have an app on the phone, contact your local police department. Let the police do their job and recover your stolen property. Don’t take these matters into your own hands—these things normally don’t turn out too good.

8 Man Causes Deadly Pileup While Texting And Driving

Almost all of us think that we’re good enough drivers to take our eyes off the road for the few seconds that it takes to send a text message. The harsh reality is one out every four car accidents on the road today are caused by texting and driving. Consider this: If you are driving at 90 kilometers per hour (55 mph), you will have covered the length of a football field in the time it takes to send a text message. Anything can happen over 100 yards of road; safe traffic is never a given.

On the morning of August 5, 2010, a 19-year-old Missouri man was driving along the highway on his morning commute like usual. Then he rammed his pickup truck into the back of a semitruck, causing a school bus behind him to crash into his pickup truck and a second school bus to crash into the rear of the first school bus. The driver of the pickup truck and a 15-year-old student were both killed instantly, and 38 other people were seriously injured. Federal investigators said that the pickup truck driver’s cell phone records revealed that he’d sent five text messages at the time of the deadly pileup.

At a meeting to determine the cause of the accident, National Transportation Safety chairman Deborah Hersman said:

It’s not possible to know from cell phone records if the driver was typing, reaching for the phone, or reading a text at the time of the crash, but it’s clear he was manually, cognitively, and visually distracted. Driving was not his only priority. No call, no text, no update is worth a human life.

7 Woman Electrocuted By Her Phone

For most of us, picking up our phone and answering it is as natural as breathing, and we tend to view it as one of the most run-of-the-mill, low-risk things we can do. Ma Ailun, a 23-year-old woman from China, probably expected much the same in 2013.

Ailun’s sister, who was present when the tragic accident happened, told investigators that Ailun had connected her iPhone to its charger just as she’d probably done 1,000 times before. Ailun heard the phone ring and picked it up to answer it while it was still connected to the charger. She was electrocuted, collapsing to the floor and dying before medical help could arrive.

While representatives at Apple would not give details as to whether this was an isolated case, they immediately gave their condolences and began to investigate the strange death. All evidence pointed to Ailun having only used an officially licensed Apple charger, refuting claims that an aftermarket charger may have been the cause of her death. To date, Apple has not released any further details from their investigation.

6 Woman Looks Down At Her Phone While Crossing The Street

Woman killed by truck while crossing street, using mobile phone

It can’t be stressed enough how important it is to always be aware of your surroundings while using your mobile phone in public, especially if you’re a pedestrian in traffic. It would seem redundant to state the risks that you’re facing, yet we pass by people looking down at their phones every day. They often don’t realize how close they come to being the victim of a horrible accident.

In 2015, a woman in Zhongshan, Guangdong, China, was casually crossing the street, an act so routine that she could essentially do it on autopilot—while not devoting her full attention to the passing traffic. She was looking down at her phone and made it across one lane, but she was then struck by a large truck in the opposite lane, which knocked her back into the lane she’d just crossed. Having next to no time to gather herself and get up, she was instantly crushed underneath a similar oncoming truck, which had very little time to react to her being in the street. The woman was killed on impact.

It probably wouldn’t have made much difference if she’d had time to get up. China has one of the highest rates of vehicular homicide involving pedestrians due to a law mandating that anyone who causes serious injury to another must cover their victim’s medical costs for the remainder of their life. Crippling a pedestrian could cost millions of dollars over time. A popular phrase in China states, “It is better to hit to kill than to hit and injure.”

Because of this, there have been multiple cases of people in China hitting a pedestrian and then backing up over their victim multiple times to ensure their death. Even children as young as five years old have been killed this way. It’s much cheaper to pay for a victim’s burial. It doesn’t help that the majority of people who kill someone with their vehicles get severely reduced sentences or never serve any prison time at all.

The woman on her phone was killed in traffic by a commercial vehicle. Sadly, due to the laws, her family will receive little to no compensation, and the neither driver of the truck nor the company he drove for will face serious legal consequences.

5 Man Enters A Trash Compactor To Recover His Dropped Phone

Illinois Man dies in trash compactor while searching for phone

Few things induce more dread than that heart-stopping moment when you drop your phone onto a hard surface or into something you know could cause damage to it. Plenty of people will do things that they’d normally never do to retrieve a dropped phone; there are tons of stories all over the Internet of people reaching into a toilet to get their phone. Normal mores and sensibilities go out the window when a phone is dropped.

An extreme example occurred in Illinois. In 2013, Roger Mirro told one of his neighbors that he’d accidentally dropped his phone down the building’s trash chute. He was asking around for the key to the trash room, which he eventually gained access to, hoping to retrieve his phone from the trash compactor. After three hours of not seeing or hearing from her husband, Mirro’s wife filed a missing persons report with the police.

After talking to residents in the apartment complex, investigators went to the trash room and discovered that the lock had been removed from the door. When they went in, they found a ladder leading up to the top of the trash compactor. Sadly, they located Mirro’s crushed, lifeless body inside.

4 Woman Runs Into A Deadly Blaze To Save Her Phone

There are very few things that would motivate most people to run back into a house fire that they’d narrowly escaped. Such a short list would in all likelihood start and end with friends, family, or beloved pets. A smartphone would usually be another story.

Wendy Rybolt of Bartonville, Illinois, was in the unfortunate position of having her home catch fire while both she and her teen daughter were in the home. Luckily, they were both able to get out with no injury as flames scorched everything around them. Then Rybolt realized that she’d left her phone inside her home, so she ran back inside to retrieve it. She couldn’t escape the fire a second time.

A responding police officer tried to save her, but the smoke was too great for him to get very far into the house, and he had to be hospitalized for smoke inhalation. When firefighters arrived, they, too, attempted to go in to save her, but by that time, the flames were too great, and they had to give up the effort until the fire was extinguished. An autopsy showed that Rybolt died from massive smoke inhalation.

Chief Brian Fengel of the Bartonville Police Department remarked:

Material things can be replaced. You never want to go back in to retrieve anything. In this, there was heavy smoke. Carbon monoxide will get you, and you may not even know it.

3 Girl Electrocuted In Search Of The Ultimate Selfie

Selfie-obsessed teen electrocuted after climbing aboard train for the perfect photo – TomoNews

Who would’ve have known that a simple tweak like adding front-facing cameras to smartphones would become as huge as it is today? You can’t go anywhere without seeing people taking selfies, and you certainly can’t log on to social media without encountering tons of them. In fact, a large majority of photos on most people’s phones are generally selfies.

Selfies’ permeation of society has inevitably spawned what many call “selfie culture,” where it seems like everyone is trying to one-up each other, showing how great their lives are with the most perfect or epic selfie possible. They’ll often literally go to the highest of heights or seek out the most scenic locales for their backdrops. There were even “Selfie Olympics” in 2014, where people attempted to take the most outlandish, ridiculous selfies possible. But the desire for the perfect selfie can sometimes come with deadly consequences.

Anna Ursu, an 18-year-old girl from Bucharest, Romania, would serve as a severe warning to these dire consequences. In May 2015, Ursu, like many people her age, was engrossed by her phone’s front-facing camera, trying to get the perfect selfie. Anna and her friend decided to go to a train yard to take some photos. One of them suggested that they climb atop a train car and take pictures there. Ursu’s friend said that things were going well until Ursu grabbed a wire on top of the train while trying to snap a selfie; the wire was live and extremely high voltage. Ursu was immediately electrocuted. The voltage was so powerful that she burst into flames.

The girl was quickly transported to Bucharest Burns Hospital in hopes to save her life, but her injuries were too severe. Anisia Iliescu, a doctor at the hospital’s emergency department, told reporters that it was impossible to save Ursu because of her physical state. “Her whole body was burned,” Iliescu said.

2 Man’s Phone Explodes

We go out of our way to protect our phones. We buy cases, screen protectors, and all manner of other accessories to prevent our devices from being damaged. The smartphone accessory industry is set to generate over $38 billion in revenue in 2017. We don’t want our smartphones damaged or broken under any circumstances. But is it possible that we need protection from our smartphones?

In 2010, Gopal Gujjar of India was in his field, herding his cattle and talking on his Nokia mobile phone as he’d done plenty of times before . . . when the phone exploded while he was holding it to his ear, killing him. When investigators arrived, they found Gujjar lying in the field with pieces of his phone strewn about his face and body and severe burns and injuries to his ear, head, neck, and shoulders. Nokia has had problems with counterfeit batteries causing their phones to explode.

Regrettably, other fatalities have been caused by exploding phones. Such deaths have been reported in China and Nepal. Representatives from each of the phone companies involved reported investigating these bizarre deaths and are doing as much research as possible to prevent more from happening in the future.

1 Woman’s Three Children Drown While She Plays On Her Phone

Irving mom arrested after three children drown in apartment pool

One of the most basic things that children need from their parents is protection, someone to be there for them when they are in imminent danger. But as we all know, this is not always the case, as there are neglectful parents all over the world.

In Irving, Texas, in 2015, Patricia Allen went to her apartment complex’s swimming pool along with three of her five children (ages 9, 10, and 11). It was reported that both she and her husband knew that the children couldn’t swim, but her husband told her that the children could swim well enough to be in the pool. Tragically, all three children drowned. Witnesses stated that Allen was right by the pool, but she was looking down at her phone the entire time. She began to panic when she realized that she couldn’t find her children.

Officer James McClellan of the Irving Police Department recounted the witnesses’ story to reporters: “They walked up to the pool and saw the mother sitting on the edge of the pool, looking outward toward the deeper end area of the pool and also observed that the water was still and calm, and no flapping or splashing or bubbles in the water. It was at that point that the mother stepped out.”

The children could very well be alive today if their mother wasn’t so preoccupied with her smartphone.

When Elliot Rosenhaus is not racing a 10-second car at his local drag strip or partaking in the pleasures of bacon, he finds time to write.

fact checked by Micah Duke