‘They smelled my body burning,’ says man whose iPhone exploded in his pocket

Posted at 1:43 PM, Mar 02, 2015
and last updated 2015-03-02 13:43:54-05

LINDENHURST, N.Y. – A man is recovering from second and third-degree burns after he says his iPhone exploded in his pocket.

“This is where it came from, the phone right here,” Erik Johnson said, pointing to his iPhone. “My iPhone blew up. And everybody’s answer is, ‘What?’”

Johnson says his iPhone was in his pocket on Valentine’s Day when it spontaneously exploded.

“I bent over to get keys and all I heard was a ‘pop’ and after a little ‘ssshh,’ smoke coming out and just like an instant burn. My leg just starts going on fire, try to get it out, can’t get it out.  I was literally jumping up and down to get the phone out of my pocket but I had dress pants on. I think the phone melted my pockets shut so I couldn’t get into it and I had to rip my pants off. A couple of people actually said they could smell my body burning.”

Johnson spent 10 days in the burn unit with second and third-degree burns on his inner thigh.

The metal case on his iPhone 5C is warped and stuck to the phone.

“There have been millions if not billions of phones sold in the last year. The rate of incidents is marginal, it’s infinitesimal,” said Ronald Gerber, CEO of Angelbeat.

Tech expert Ronald Gerber says the smallest bit of damage to a phone’s circuit board, or the use of third-party charging devices, can cause the battery to overheat and spew lithium lava.

“I guess, like, when you’re branding a bull or something like that, that’s what it felt like. It really did,” said Johnson.

In this case, Johnson says he used an Apple cable for his iPhone.

“Obviously, Apple has to take a closer look at what they’re putting out in the stream of commerce before they go out and sell these items that could potentially be this dangerous,” said Mike Della, a lawyer.

“I just want my leg back to what it was, you know,” Johnson said.

As Johnson heals, Apple says it is looking into the case.