BY ALY ABICH IN HOMA BAY COUNTY.
A 45-year-old woman from Kadibuoro Village in Rangwe Constituency, Homa Bay County, Mary Akinyi, died Sunday night after lightning struck her cell phone and transmitted the charge into her body.
Ms Akinyi’s husband, Patrick Yala Okach, 50, was injured during the incident, and rushed to Ndiru Health Centre for emergency treatment.
The lightening first struck a solar panel placed on the roof of the couple’s house before carrying the charge, via the wire system, to the phone, which was charging on the bed, where the couple was sleeping.
Heavy rains preceded the fatal accident.
According to Mr Okach’s brother, Nathaniel Ochieng’, the mobile phone belonged to Ms Akinyi.
Mr Ochieng claims the device, which was in close contact with Ms Akinyi’s skin exploded, and transmitted charges into the 45-year-old’s body, killing her on the spot.
Mr Ochieng revealed that Ms Akinyi suffered severe burns in the incident, and other electronic devices, which had been connected to the solar system, were destroyed.
Ndiru Health Centre lead doctor, Duncan Ngicho, said Mr Okach was rushed to the facility while in critical condition.
“He was vomiting blood; and was unconscious, when he was brought to the medical clinic at midnight,” said Mr Ngicho.
The medical doctor says Mr Okach had developed a “general weakness”, and sustained cuts in his face from broken glass in the incident.
“He [Okach], is, however, in a stable condition now as we closely monitor his progress,” said Mr Ngicho.
West Kagan Location chief, Kennedy Okoko, confirmed the incident.
Ms Akinyi’s body was moved to Rosewood Hospital mortuary in Rongo, Migori County.
According to a letter published in a June 2006 issue of the British Medical Journal (BMJ), people who talk on, or even just carry, mobile phones during storms are more likely to sustain fatal internal injuries if struck by lightning.
Human skin is resistant to transmitting electricity into the body, so when lightning strikes a person, it tends to travel along the skin, a report published on Livescience.com says.
Scientists call this phenomenon “flashover.” According to the doctors, conductive materials such as liquids or metallic objects can interrupt flashover and direct lightning into the body, causing internal damage.
“This can result in injuries like cardiac arrest, which is often fatal,” said Swinda Espirit, a doctor at Northwick Park Hospital in England who co-authored the British Medical Journal.
Another report published on BMJ website says posture of a mobile phone user may play a big role in determining the extent of damage when one is struck by lightning.
Having one arm elevated, holding the phone, is likely to make the user a more “attractive” target for lightning, by creating a less uniform electrostatic gradient around the user, says the BMJ report.
(Additional reporting by Brian Okoth)