Fact Check

Buds Zapper

Published Jul 6, 2015

FACT CHECK:   Was a girl electrocuted while using earbuds plugged into an iPhone that was being recharged?

Claim:   A girl died of electrocution because she used earbuds plugged into an iPhone that was being recharged.


Example:     [Collected via Twitter, July 2015]

Origins:    On 7 July 2015 the web site Newswatch33 published an article titled "Girl Killed in Her Sleep from Wearing Earbuds While iPhone Was Charging," which reported that:

Gabrielle Samuels was listening to iTunes on her iPhone 6 Plus last night while attempting to fall asleep. The 19-year-old did nothing more than what she does every night before going to bed. She had just graduated high school and was enjoying her summer break before attending college in the fall. Sadly, this night was the last night that Samuels would enjoy her bedtime playlist.

[Her friend Hassan Gates'] gruesome discovery would forever change him and the Samuels family. Gates was given a key to the Samuels residence prior to this incident incase of emergencies. Gates used the key to enter the home where he noticed a 'burnt' smell. "I thought I smelled burnt bacon so I checked the kitchen first. I just saw a box of cereal on the table and two half-filled cups of coffee. Since I didn't see any food cooked, I decided to go upstairs and surprise my bae. The burnt smell got stronger as I got upstairs. When I opened the door to Gabby's room, it smelled like someone had been barbecuing, that's when I found Gabby in the bed. I immediately ran over to her to see if she was okay but she was unresponsive so I called 911" said Gates.

<!-- Although the article later became unavailable (possibly due to a crush of traffic), it was preserved in tweets sent by the page's official account:


However, neither the photograph nor the claim attached to it were unique to Newswatch33. On 18 June 2015, the same image was published to a web site alongside a claim that the girl depicted was from the Philippines and had died on 10 June 2015. But a reverse image search revealed that the gruesome picture was part of a set of similar photos of unclear origin, all of which have been circulating online since at least November 2010 (graphic image warning). The earliest iteration of the photos (again, disturbing) claimed that the female depicted had died of an overdose of medication. (The identity, circumstances under which the ostensible death occurred, possible cause of death, and nationality of the woman or girl in the photographs is unknown.)

Additionally, NewsWatch33 is a fake news site that (coincidentally) emerged on social media just after the very similar NewsWatch28 was shuttered (possibly as part of an intentional switch to keep content moving following Facebook's crackdown on fake news sites). Before publishing the above linked article, the site agitated Facebook and Twitter users by fabricating a tale about a white supremacist group that supposedly raised $4 million for the defense of Charleston shooting suspect Dylann Roof.

Last updated:      7 July 2015

Originally published:     7 July 2015

Kim LaCapria is a former writer for Snopes.