A flight journey from Beijing to Melbourne turned tragic for a passenger listening to music using a pair of her own battery-operated headphones, when the earplugs blew up midair, according to the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB).
The incident happened while she was asleep, two hours after boarding the flight. The passenger heard a loud explosion and was quoted saying: “As I went to turn around I felt burning on my face”. “I just grabbed my face, which caused the headphones to go around my neck.”
“I continued to feel burning so I grabbed them off and threw them on the floor. They were sparking and had small amounts of fire.” She said: “As I went to stamp my foot on them the flight attendants were already there with a bucket of water to pour on them. They put them into the bucket at the rear of the plane.” The battery and cover were both melted and stuck to the floor of the aircraft.
There was chaos all around after the explosion. Flight attendants quickly came to check on the passenger’s well-being. For the rest of the journey, all other passengers bore the smell of melted plastic, burnt electronics and burnt hair. “People were coughing and choking the entire way home,” the passenger said, according to ATSB.
After the incident, ATSB also reminded the passengers about the precautionary measures while using battery-powered devices. They were:
– batteries should be kept in an approved storage, unless in use
– spare batteries must be kept in 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.
The Bureau has not disclosed the name of the woman but has released images of her injuries to highlight the issue of lithium batteries on flights.
This incident comes after the October 2016 tragedy when Samsung’s Galaxy Note7 began bursting into flames. Air carriers soon banned passengers from carrying any Note7, as various media publications had reported.