Professional basketball player Khouraichi Thiam who suffered serious hand injuries when his mobile phone exploded Professional basketball player Khouraichi Thiam who suffered serious hand injuries when his mobile phone exploded

A professional basketball player has told of his terror after a mobile phone exploded in his hand.

Khouraichi Thiam, 31, who plays in Texas, suffered serious injuries to his hand, including second degree burns. He says he can’t move his thumb, his index finger or his middle finger. Parts of his hand are also numb, suggesting he suffered nerve damage. His hand is expected to stay in a sling and brace for at least four weeks.

Khouraichi told news station WFAA-TV he was in a car with friends when his phone suddenly turned into a fireball in his right hand.

"It just blew up," he said. "It exploded. The driver, who is my friend, was screaming. We all were screaming. I thought I was going to die."

Khouraichi, who is 6ft 8ins tall, has played professional basketball around the world, including for the national team of his home country, Senegal. He now lives in Dallas and was planning on trying out for the NBA summer league, but that may not happen now.

The way his phone erupted in flames suggests it had gone into what’s known as thermal runaway.

When this happens one cell overheating in a lithium ion battery can produce enough heat – up to 900°C (1652°F) – to cause adjacent cells to overheat. This can cause a lithium battery fire to flare repeatedly or even explode.

This rise in lithium battery fires is posing a particular problem in the confined space of passenger aircraft which is why cabin crew now often include in the safety briefing a warning that if passengers lose their mobile phones down seats they should alert the staff and not try to retrieve it themselves. If they do, the phone could get crushed in the seat mechanism, sparking a thermal runaway fire.

One way to tackle such incidents is to use an AvSax fire containment bag which can deal with fires in personal electronic devices and are now carried on more than 13,000 aircraft operated by 65 airline companies across the world – including some of the biggest and best-known.

AvSax  – which won the Queen’s Award for Enterprise in 2018 - has been used more than 30 times to deal with emergencies since the start of 2017. Deployment is so effective that extremely expensive diversions to alternate airports are avoided.