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Engineer commits suicide after losing iPhone prototype

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A Chinese engineer committed suicide after he was allegedly roughed-up by company security services when one of the iPhone 4G prototypes entrusted into his care went missing.

Twenty-five-year-old Sun Danyong, a recent engineering graduate, was employed by Foxconn, manufacturer of Apple's iPhone and iPods. According to reports from China Radio International (Google translation), VentureBeat, and others, Sun leapt to his death from the 12th floor of his apartment building on July 16th, a few days after the iPhone 4G prototype disappeared.

The reports indicate that on July 9th, Sun received 16 of the prototypes, but a few days later, he could account for only 15 of them. After searching the factory, he reported the missing iPhone to his superiors on Monday, July 13th.

Two days later, his apartment was allegedly searched by Foxconn security who, according to CRI and others, beat Sun during their investigation.

Although the beating is unproven, what happened at 3:00 am on Thursday the 16th is not in dispute: Security cameras in Sun's apartment building taped him leaping from an open window.

In a statement (Google translation) this Tuesday morning, Foxconn confirmed Sun's suicide, but questioned reports of the beating.

Apple did not immediately respond to our requests for comment. Bu Cnet quotes an Apple spokesperson as confirming the suicide, adding that "We are saddened by the tragic loss of this young employee, and we are awaiting results of the investigations into his death."

The Apple statement also noted that "We require our suppliers to treat all workers with dignity and respect."

Apple is certainly not alone in requiring strict security from its partners and suppliers. And Foxconn is obviously under great competitive pressure from all of its OEM rivals.

But something in this highly-competitive, highly-secretive world went tragically wrong. A young engineer lost an iPhone prototype. A few days later, he took his own life. ®

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