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Pair of Wireless Headphones Explodes In-Flight, Injuring One Woman

The battery was the culprit.

As we were reminded during the “hoverboard” era and the Galaxy Note 7 saga, lithium-ion batteries are extremely dangerous when not used properly by the companies that build them into their products — and even without a fault, there’s still an element of risk. They’re volatile, and when damaged they can and do explode violently.

It’s concerning given how many wireless devices there are now, most of which use lithium-ion batteries. The batteries aren’t just in smartphones and things masquerading as hoverboards — they’re in tablets, laptops, and speakers, too. Perhaps most dangerously, they’re also in wireless headphones — the things that sit right on your head. Unfortunately, that worst case scenario happened to one woman on a flight from Beijing to Melbourne.

Earlier this week, the Australian Transport Safety Bureau put out a notice about an in-flight battery explosion involving headphones. The passenger, whose identity was not disclosed, was awoken by an explosion about two hours into the flight. After feeling a burning sensation, she put the headphones around her neck before throwing them to the ground, where they melted enough to stick to the carpet of the airplane. As you can see in the pictures, the woman’s face was charred, and she ended up with burns and blisters on her hand. The ATSB declined to identify the brand or model of the headphones.

Australian Transport Safety Bureau

While most devices with lithium-ion batteries are safe — there are billions of them out there in use, and we still hear about these stories very infrequently — it’s worth remembering that the composition of those batteries makes them very dangerous. For their part, the ATSB followed up the story with a recommendation about how to handle lithium-ion-powered devices:

  • batteries should be kept in an approved stowage, unless in use
  • spare batteries must be in your carry-on baggage NOT checked baggage
  • if a passenger’s smart phone or other device has fallen into the seat gap, locate their device before moving powered seats
  • if a passenger cannot locate their device, they should refrain from moving their seat and immediately contact a cabin crew member

Via The Age