When cell phone use is a factor in fatal accidents, it usually involves texting while driving. It’s become the leading cause of fatalities for teen drivers, with deaths estimated at around 3,000 per year. Now, it seems cell phone-related tragedies are taking a different form as people put themselves in dangerous situations to retrieve their devices.
The latest incident happened in Xinxiang City in China’s Henan province, where two people died after trying to retrieve a cell phone from an “open-pit toilet” filled with sewage. According to the South China Morning Post, a woman lost her brand-new 2,000 yuan ($325) phone in the toilet, prompting her husband to jump into a cesspit to retrieve the device. The man, who was reportedly knee-deep in waste, was said to have immediately lost consciousness because of the fumes. His mother mounted a rescue attempt, but she also fainted because of the smell. The woman who owned the phone jumped in soon after and lost consciousness immediately.
The phone owner’s father-in-law then called neighbors to help with the rescue. The father-in-law ended up trapped in the pit while two neighbors fainted because of the fumes. “The smell was too strong. I lost consciousness before I could see anything,” a neighbor said.
Eventually villagers tied a rope around rescuers and six people were pulled out of the cesspit. The whole incident happened in less than five minutes.
The phone owner’s husband and mother-in-law died. A doctor said the victims suffered from suffocation. The two were said to still be alive after being pulled out of the cesspit, however, emergency medical care was reportedly slow, arriving at the scene after over an hour. The phone owner and a neighbor are said to be in a hospital’s intensive care unit. The father-in-law is said to be recuperating from injuries. The phone owner and her husband were said to have a one-year old son.
The incident adds to a growing list of fatalities attributed to cell phone rescue attempts. Last January, a 26-year old man died after jumping into the Chicago River to retrieve his mobile device. Two of his friends tried to help but fell in after him. One of the friends, a 21-year old woman, went missing and was presumed dead.