Faulty USB charger blamed for electrocution of Australian woman


End users are being warned off using "cheap" USB chargers, following the electrocution of a 28-year-old Australian woman while using her laptop and mobile phone.

Sheryl Anne Aldeguer was found dead on 23 April this year with burns to her chest and ears from her laptop and earphones, respectively, while using a $4.95 mobile phone charger.

It is thought the phone charger sent a high voltage electrical charge into her phone, which she was using at the time, and this was conducted to the earphones connected to her laptop.

The deceased had only recently qualified to become an Australian citizen, and was about to start a new job at a local hospital before her death.

The case is being investigated by Australian police, and has prompted warnings about the dangers of using non-compliant USB adaptors after a similar charger was found at the scene.

This revelation has resulted in USB devices being seized from a mobile accessory shop in Campsie, New South Wales.

Speaking to the Sydney Morning Herald, Rob Stowe, a Fair Trading Commissioner, confirmed the mobile phone charger used by Aldeguer had been sold by the shop in Campsie.

The store's owner now faces fines of up to $875,000 and a two-year jail sentence.

"We will certainly be further investigating an outlet which we have detected have supplied those types of non-compliant [chargers] with a view to prosecution," he said.

At the moment, Aldeguer's death is the only fatality linked to the use of these chargers, but Stowe has warned consumers to only use authorised USB chargers and adapters to power their devices.

"We're only familiar with this one incident and it does look like one of these devices are implicated in the electrocution," he added.

The case echoes the death of a 23-year-old Chinese flight attendant last year, who died in similar circumstances while taking a call on an iPhone 5 that was plugged into a non-Apple accredited USB charger.

This resulted in Apple launching a trade-in scheme for users of counterfeit iPhone, iPad and iPod chargers the following month.

Caroline Donnelly is the news and analysis editor of IT Pro and its sister site Cloud Pro, and covers general news, as well as the storage, security, public sector, cloud and Microsoft beats. Caroline has been a member of the IT Pro/Cloud Pro team since March 2012, and has previously worked as a reporter at several B2B publications, including UK channel magazine CRN, and as features writer for local weekly newspaper, The Slough and Windsor Observer. She studied Medical Biochemistry at the University of Leicester and completed a Postgraduate Diploma in Magazine Journalism at PMA Training in 2006.