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11/28/2007
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Exploding Cell Phone Said To Kill South Korean Man

Police want to know why a 33-year-old quarry worker was found with broken bones, heart damage, and a melted cell phone in his left chest pocket.

South Korean authorities are investigating whether an exploding cell phone battery killed a quarry worker at a job site.

The Korea Times reported Wednesday that co-workers found a 33-year-old colleague, identified only by a surname, dead next to an excavator, outside of Seoul Wednesday morning.

Police and doctors told the newspaper that the man was found dead with a melted cell phone in his left chest pocket. The man had suffered burns on his chest, fractured ribs and spine, bleeding of the lungs and a damaged heart.

The newspaper reported that the police did not release the name of the cell phone manufacturer, but an electronics company, requesting anonymity during the investigation, acknowledged that the phone was Japanese and runs on batteries from two Korean companies. The Associated Press reported that police identified the maker as LG Electronics and said a company representative confirmed it was the maker but said it was unlikely the cell phone caused the death.

An LG representative told the BBC that the cell phone is only available in Korea and it has been tested rigorously.

A company representative told the Korea Times that the lithium-ion polymer batteries are covered with foil and should melt, rather than explode, even if they receive an external shock.

Doctors told the newspaper that an explosion caused the lung and heart damage, which killed the quarry worker.

It's not the first time that an exploding cell phone has killed someone. Chinese media reported that a welder died in June after a cell phone exploded in his chest pocket, breaking his ribs and blasting bone fragments into his heart. The 22-year-old worker was exposed to high temperatures in a plant.

The Chinese welder's phone was a Motorola. At the time, Motorola representatives, like their counterparts at LG, said the phone was unlikely to have caused a death.

Authorities said at the time that the cell phone battery quality may have cause the explosion and killed the man but they were not sure. They ultimately concluded that high temperatures caused the explosion.

The Korean quarry worker, who was found dead on Wednesday, had been working in cold temperatures, according to local media reports.

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