Now we have headphones catching fire, too

A woman on a flight from Beijing to Melbourne got a rude, painful awakening after her headphones caught fire recently.

The Australian woman, who hasn’t been identified, was asleep with her headphones (brand not identified, either) on when she heard an explosion, according to the Australian Transport Safety Bureau, which on Wednesday released photos dated Feb. 19. Her face was blackened, her hair singed and she got blisters on her hands.

“As I went to turn around I felt burning on my face,” she told the ATSB. “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.”

Flight attendants then poured a bucket of water on the headphones. The rest of the passengers then had to smell burned hair and electronics, and melted plastic, for the rest of the flight.

The mid-air incident brings to mind the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 smartphones, some of which caught fire and exploded last year, eventually forcing the Android maker to issue recalls and then cease production of the devices altogether. The incidents put a spotlight on lithium-ion batteries, and airlines banned the phones.

Samsung said this year there were two different problems with batteries it used in the phones.

In this particular incident, the ATSB said the batteries in the headphones likely caused the fire. It issued an airplane-safety warning, saying that battery-powered devices should be stowed when not in use, and spare batteries must be kept in carry-on baggage.


Photo: These photos taken on Feb. 19, 2017 and released by the Australia Transport Safety Bureau show a woman after she suffered burns to her face and hands after her headphones caught fire during a flight to Australia, officials said on March 15, 2017. (AFP/Getty Images)


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  • saimin

    Why is the brand of the headphones not identified?

    • levisu

      The Australian Transport Safety Bureau has not identified the brand.


    Why I feel smoke rises, are her checks blackend but not her hair?

    • Justiceforall2

      HE D.. new avatar. The area around her ears were protected by the cups of the headphones. The photo shows the protection the cups gave to her ear. The carbon on her face is not from smoke but from the proximity to the burning plastic and the carbon that off-gassed to cause the blacking of the face. The burns are to her nose that I can see, around her lips… but it is all consistent with headphones…. weird case and probably the batteries for the phone were related to the cause. The batteries for noise suppressing and bluetooth headphones are in the earpieces.


        Thanks for the insight,

        • Justiceforall2

          Anytime. Your comment was reasonable if you have not had evidence training or fire investigation training

  • Agent Smith

    How about this. Instead of listening to something, read a book!
    It’s safe and you’ll exercise your mind.

    • smh

      How about this. Instead of posting stupid comments on the internet via an electronic device, read a book!
      It’s safe and you’ll exercise your mind.

      • Winifred Galler

        I was going to point out that I frequently listen to educational podcasts on my headphones or listen to audiobooks and that reading isn’t the only way to exercise your mind.
        But I must say, your reply made me smile.

  • Bruce Anglin

    I’d guess they don’t know the name of the brand because there are many no-name brands out there that are rechargeable. Those seem to be the type of batteries that tend to explode, rechargeable lithium batteries hidden deep inside those cheap headphones. Very doubtful they were anything like Bose because those use real replaceable batteries.

    • saimin

      If it was a no-name brand, saying that in the article is easy enough. Lawyers from the no-name brand aren’t going to sue you. On the other hand, if that’s a struggling wireless earphone from a rich Silicon Valley company with a history of lawsuits, naming them might be problematic for the local newspaper.

      • Levi Sumagaysay

        The Australian Transport Safety Bureau has not identified the brand.

  • Dave

    Totally useless article to help warn consumers without knowing the manufacturer which is identified on every electronics product produced as is required by international law.

  • Doogeruoy Sihtdaer

    A long flight with most of the passengers asleep, I wouldn’t rule out foul play. Someone could have taken a light and lit her up.

  • Springsteen’s “I’m On Fire” playing?