It was a horrific accident last night in South Florida. A 16-year-old roller blader was killed when he was struck by a 1999 Lexus while gliding across an intersection. This may seem like just another unfortunate story, but Apple Computer (NASDAQ:AAPL) shareholders may want to take note of how the local media has been describing the event.

"A teenager fiddling with his iPod music player" is how this morning's article in the Sun-Sentinel starts out. Really. Right off the bat it's playing the blame game with Apple in the mix. During last night's televised report, the police officer, area residents and the reporter all singled out the iPod's role in the young teen's death. Even a child and his mother, neighbors of the victim, were discussing how he (the neighbor) was trying to earn good grades in order to be rewarded with an iPod, but how that was unlikely to happen now.

If you're shaking your head at this moment -- wondering how what appears to be bad judgment on the part of a single young adult can sink a brand -- you don't know South Florida. This was the same place that had parents in an uproar late last year when a student was Tasered by a cop as he was leaving a school. While beleaguered Rule Breaker newsletter recommendation Taser International (NASDAQ:TASR) also had a laundry list of problems that came to light after the incident, something as simple as that started to turn the tide of public opinion -- for some -- against the company. It doesn't snow in South Florida, but snowballs do have a way of rolling out of control.

The iPod has been Apple's salvation over the past two years. Now that it is selling more iPod units than Macs and with its shares tripling over the past 12 months, the last thing Apple needs is the potential for activist groups to start cracking down on public usage of its iPods.

The iPod has cemented Apple's status as a mainstream brand and won back consumers to the company's flagship computer business. Digital music has been sweet music to the company's ears. Even Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) and Yahoo! (NASDAQ:YHOO) are now trying to follow Apple's lead and become players in the prerecorded music space.

No, there is no amount of public outcry that will derail Apple. There are now way too many people in love with their iPods. There are plenty of gadgetry distractions out there, and it is unlikely that you can legislate pedestrians into silence, just as you are unlikely to see car owners have their Sirius (NASDAQ:SIRI) and XM Satellite Radio (NASDAQ:XMSR) systems stripped from their cars just because someone got into a fender bender while fumbling through the hundred-plus channels.

But as a South Floridian, I can tell you that we can be a pretty persistent bunch. Is this the end of the iPod? Of course not. But watch this situation closely over the next few days, because Apple has had such a squeaky clean image lately and the company's new signature product is being trash-talked by the local media down here.

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Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz is a big fan of Apple, but he does not own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this story. The Fool has a disclosure policy. He is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early.