Man Killed After Being 'Sucked' Into MRI Machine by Powerful Magnetic Field and Inhaling Cryogenic Liquid Oxygen

The victim had been asked to carry a cylinder of liquid oxygen. Wikimedia Commons

Mumbai police confirmed that an Indian man died after being "sucked" into an MRI machine, according to international news agency Agence France-Presse.

The victim, 32-year-old Rajesh Maru, was visiting a relative in Mumbai's Nair Hospital when he entered a room containing a magnetic resonance imaging machine—more commonly known as an MRI machine—while carrying an oxygen cylinder. The machine's powerful magnetic force pulled him toward it, the police stated according to AFP, apparently damaging the cylinder and poisoning Maru when he inhaled the pure liquid oxygen it contained.

According to Maru's uncle, Maru had been carrying the cylinder because a junior staff member had asked him to, assuring him that the MRI machine was turned off, AFP reported. The MRI pulled the metal cylinder toward it, trapping Maru's arm inside and exposing him to the deadly liquid oxygen, according to the Hindustan Times. His fingers were severed while hospital employees tried to free him. He died several hours later in intensive care.

"A tube of the oxygen cylinder too got disconnected from the cylinder and it began leaking. Maru inhaled a huge amount of oxygen due to which he fell unconscious," Savalaram Agavane, senior police inspector of Agripada police station, said according to the Hindustan Times. A doctor and staff member have been arrested for causing death due to negligence, according to AFP.

When turned on, as this one was, MRI machines emit powerful magnetic fields that image the body's internal organs. That field is the reason patients and doctors alike are asked to remove any metal they might be carrying—belt buckles, piercings, loose change, keys—before they approach one.

In liquid form, oxygen is pale blue in color and extremely cold, according to the University of Florida's Environmental Health & Safety division. Liquid oxygen is a cryogenic fluid, meaning a liquefied gas with a boiling point lower than -238 degrees Fahrenheit (-297.3 degrees Fahrenheit, in this case). It's so highly combustible that it's used to power rockets. In large enough quantities, it's poisonous—Maru's autopsy showed his cause of death to be toxic amounts of inhaled liquid oxygen, according to the Hindustan Times.

The air we breathe under normal circumstances comprises about 21 percent oxygen, according to the University of Florida. Pure, highly pressurized oxygen, though, is toxic enough to compromise lung function, causing convulsions, respiratory distress, loss of vision and, in cases like this, death.