Coroner warning after man electrocuted in bath charging iPhone

Kevin Rawlinson
An iPhone plugged in and charging. Dr Sean Cummings, the coroner, said he would send a report to Apple to warn of the dangers of charging a device and using it in the bath. Photograph: CatLane/Getty Images

A man died after being electrocuted while charging his phone in the bath, an inquest has heard.

The death of Richard Bull, 32, which occurred when the iPhone fell into the water, was accidental, the coroner ruled. Dr Sean Cummings said he would also send a report to the phone’s manufacturer, Apple, to warn about the dangers.

“These seem like innocuous devices, but they can be as dangerous as a hairdryer in a bathroom. They should attach warnings,” he told the inquest. “This was a tragic accident and I have no reason to believe at all that there anything other than it being completely accidental.”

Friends at the amateur rugby club where Bull played said he would be “greatly missed” and offered their commiserations to his family. His teammate, Nick Greenhalgh, said: “He was a pleasure to play both against and with. He would play in any position without giving it a second thought. He stepped back from nothing and left everything on the pitch for whichever side he was playing for.”

Bull’s mother, Carole, said: “I have worried that so many people and especially teenagers, that can’t be separated from their phones, don’t know how dangerous it is.”

His brother Andrew said: “When you are younger you are taught about electricity and the bath, but you don’t think about this. I still find it hard to believe that between the charger plug and the phone would be enough electricity to kill someone.”

Bull was found in the bath by his wife Tanya. He had been getting ready to go out to meet his father, Anthony Watson, when the accident happened last December. “We were meeting him that morning, to exchange presents and were going for a curry, which he loved,” Watson told the inquest.

“And the next day he was going to stay with his brother.” Bull’s mother added that her son was “in a happy disposition”.

The coroner said that the postmortem had revealed burns on Bull’s right arm and right hand. Police told the inquest at West London coroner’s court that an extension lead was found running from the hallway into the bathroom.

According to Sheila Merrill, the public health adviser to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, this sort of incident is rare. Nevertheless, she said, “people need to be aware of taking an electrical appliance into the bathroom”.

She told the BBC: “The advice has always been given with regard to hairdryers and radios – not to use in the bathroom.

“If you have got any appliance attached to the mains electricity circuit you have to be aware there is a danger there. You’re risking death. Electricity and water don’t mix, but particularly with phones, people don’t probably always think about it. It’s not advisable to use them while they’re plugged in, particularly in a bathroom situation.”

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