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by Mike Zazaian September 16, 2006 - 4:40pm, 10 Comments

The Aftermath

Passengers at LAX got quite a scare today as an IBM laptop with a Sony battery exploded in one of the world’s busiest airports, but Sony might have seen the whole thing coming.

Just weeks after Sony recalled millions of defective Apple and Dell laptop batteries, an IBM ThinkPad exploded and burst into flames at Los Angeles International Airport.

According to an eyewitness account at Awful Forums, a panicked man with an IBM Lenovo ThinkPad knocked passengers aside as he charged in the wrong direction up the jetway with an IBM laptop in his hands. As the man the boarding area he threw his laptop to the floor, at which point it, Immediately flares up like a giant firework for about 15 seconds, then catches fire.

Another shot after the incident

As gawkers panicked and yelled Terrorist, the flares died down as another larger flame engulfed the computer and began to fill the terminal with smoke. Most of the onlookers had cleared out by the time an airport employee grabbed a fire extinguisher and put the spastic IBM to rest.

In an interview after the incident, the man said that he had checked his laptop against the recalled product Ids on Sony’s website, but nothing indicated that his battery was at risk. The eyewitness who reported the incident mentioned how timely the whole incident may have been:

…It was a close call nonetheless…If that thing had fired off while that plane was in the air, who knows what would have happened.

After a brash of such explosions a few weeks ago Sony recalled 1.8 million batteries for Apple computers, and 4.1 million for Dells, marking the largest of such recalls in the history of the conusmer electronics industry. When all was said and done Sony had paid out between $172 million and $258 million in US currency for battery replacements. No IBM models were mentioned in the recall.

It’s possible though, that Sony was aware that the batteries in IBM computers may have been problematic, but wanted to wait until incident arose to incite a recall. In a cnet article regarding the recalls, Sony spokesman Rick Clancy used cryptic wording in his damage control for Sony:

We’re anticipating no further recalls of battery packs using these particular cells.

From the wording of these particular cells it seems as though Sony may have been aware that other batteries might potentially experience problems, but weren’t willing to put forth the capital to rectify them. At least, not before an explosion like the one earlier today forced them to. Whatever the case, the liquid-core lithium woes seem far from over for Sony. On the bright side, some non-exploding alternatives are currently in development and should replace today’s laptop firecrackers within the next few years.

[via engadget]