Published On : Tue, Aug 2nd, 2016

Sydney bike rider Gareth Clear left with third-degree burns after iPhone ‘explodes’

A Sydney bicycle rider, who says he was severely burnt when his iPhone exploded after a minor fall, is now on a mission to make people aware of the potential dangers of using such devices.

Bondi management consultant Gareth Clear, 36, said his iPhone was in his back pocket and ignited after he had a fall from his bike while riding on Sunday afternoon.


“I just saw smoke coming out of my back pocket and I was completely bewildered about what it was and then all of a sudden I felt this surging pain,” he said.

Mr Clear said he heard a “snap” and felt a “searing heat” as the phone burnt through his riding shorts in a matter of seconds.

He tried to grab it but burnt his fingers, before struggling to take off his “boiling” shorts.

“I just remember looking at my leg and I had this black discharge all down my leg and this smell of phosphorus,” he said.

“I just saw the phone on the floor and it was kind of contorting and all this kind of battery goo was just coming out the bottom of the phone near the power socket and it was kind of moving.”

The fall itself, Mr Clear said, was only minor and occurred after his foot slipped on the bike pedal when he was about to start moving, causing him to lose his balance and fall on his bottom.

1470113153837 (1)After borrowing a mobile phone, he went to Manly Hospital before being immediately transferred to the burns unit at the Royal North Shore Hospital.

Mr Clear said he was told he had third-degree burns on his upper right thigh, and had to have a skin graft.

Now hooked up to a machine to ensure the graft takes, he is not expecting to be able to get back on his bike for some weeks.

He posted a picture of his injury on his Twitter account, and received a “mechanical” response from Apple before an employee tried to call him.

1470113153837 (3)Apple’s Australia-based office have not commented on the incident and did not respond to Fairfax Media’s questions.

It is not unique for lithium ion batteries, which are used in smart phones, laptops, hover boards and electric cars, to explode.

It can occur due to defects, overheating, physical damage or external pressure, or a combination of the factors.

1470113153837 (2)In 2011, a phone on a flight from Lismore to Sydney started emitting “a significant amount of dense smoke, accompanied by a red glow” and had to be extinguished.

An investigation by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau later revealed a misplaced screw had punctured the battery case during a screen-replacement job, leading to a short circuit.

Mr Clear said he did not blame Apple for his injury, and wanted to raise awareness about the potential dangers of iPhones.

His story has been picked up by media outlets around the world.

“The more pervasive these are in our lives and the more people use them with a lack of apprehension that something might go wrong, the more that these things will happen,” Mr Clear said.

“Imagine if that was a young child who was banging the phone against the table, which happens. Or someone skiing, or running and they fall down and the phone explodes.

“I can barely walk and my leg’s just pissing blood right now and I’m attached to a machine with a tube and I haven’t slept for three days and that was caused by a phone that was in protective clothing.

“I want Apple to investigate, find out what was the cause and we need to educate people about this.”