Langhorne woman injured by exploding laptop

Posted: July 02, 2014

Loretta Luff had taken a break from her Sunday wash when she sat down at her living room desk, and began checking e-mail and playing spider solitaire on her laptop.

The Braves were beating the Phillies on the TV behind her, and her toy poodles, Marie and Gigi, rested nearby.

Then, said Luff, 72, her Dell Inspiron exploded, spraying battery acid and computer parts all over her and the carpet, as far as eight feet behind her.

"The computer blew back, and everything else came toward me," Luff said Monday.

She said she ripped off her cotton tank top, which was on fire. Then her bare foot stepped onto one of the laptop's blazing batteries. Flames rose from the carpet, so she doused it with water from the dogs' bowl.

Luff said she called her neighbors for help, and fire trucks soon arrived outside her home in Langhorne.

Ultimately, Luff said, she suffered first- and second-degree burns to her face, arms, chest, and foot. Doctors at St. Mary Medical Center even pulled "stuff" from her nostrils, she said. Luff was released from the hospital that night.

Laptops that catch fire and explode aren't unheard of, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission and news accounts.

"It is very rare, but it can be an incident that can cause serious property damage and even injury," commission spokesman Scott Wolfson said.

In 2006, a family in Solon, Iowa, reported watching an Apple laptop erupt in flames. Several electronics companies over the years have reported laptops with overheated battery packs, including Dell.

David Frink, a spokesman for Dell, said the company was reaching out to Luff to begin an investigation.

In a statement, the company said, "Dell will take appropriate steps to investigate this incident."

Frank Farry, chief of the Langhorne-Middletown Fire Company, said it was too early to determine what caused the computer, which was six years old, to explode. He said that the neighborhood had suffered a power outage earlier in the day and that the laptop was plugged into an extension cord.

Luff said it hurts to walk on her foot that touched the laptop battery. But, she said, "I have my health. My husband is all right. And my dogs are fine. Everything else can be replaced."


bfinley@phillynews.com

610-313-8118 @Ben_Finley

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