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Live grenades, bull chases and clifftops: people are dying to take selfies

The number of deaths in 2015 related to the practice of taking selfies has risen to 12 after a 66-year-old Japanese tourist, Hideto Ueda, died when collapsing and falling down stairs posing at the Taj Mahal in India. His travelling companion survived, but suffered a broken leg.

The BBC cites an eyewitness, Sagar Singh, as saying Ueda fell when taking a picture at the mausoleum’s Royal Gate.

The incident now takes the death toll of officially recorded selfie-related deaths to 12. Previous incidents this year include a man who was gored to death taking a picture during a bull run in a Spanish town, and two men who accidentally blew themselves up in the Russian Ural mountains when posing with a live grenade. The picture was discovered saved to the camera roll on one of the men’s phones.

Other selfie related deaths this year in Russia alone include a 21-year-old woman in Moscow who shot herself in the head while pointing a 9mm pistol at her temple, another who reportedly fell from a bridge and a teenager in Ryazan who died when coming into contact with live wires while snapping a portrait near to railway tracks.

In July, Russian authorities issued a selfie safety campaign after “hundreds” more injuries were reported. The interior ministry’s initiative included a leaflet, video and a website.

“Unfortunately we have noted recently that the number of accidents caused by lovers of self-photography is constantly increasing,” a government aide said at the time. “Since the beginning of the year we are talking about some hundred cases of injuries for sure.”

Russian selfie advice

In May, a Singaporean tourist died when falling from cliffs off the coast of Bali attempting to take a picture. And earlier this month, a 19-year-old from Houston, Texas, shot himself in the throat when framing a shot; a similar fate to that of a Mexican who posed with a gun when drunk.

Mashable reports that the 2015 death toll so far caused by selfies gone wrong is now higher than that for shark attacks, which is recorded at eight.

More and more people are putting themselves into dangerous situations in a bid to get the most sensational or outrageous pictures to share on social media. In particular, pictures with animals, or taken at great heights, or posing with weapons, are widespread.

Selfies with bears even caused the closure of a park in Denver, Canada, after visitors would not stop getting close to the animals in order to take photographs.

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“The current situation is not conducive for the safety of our visitors or the well-being of the wildlife,” said the park manager of the site. “We’ve actually seen people using selfie sticks to try and get as close to the bears as possible – sometimes within ten feet of wild bears.”

And in an echo of the man gored to death at the bull run in Villaseca de la Sagra, a woman from Mississippi was attacked by a Bison, but survived, in Yellowstone National Park after turning her back on the animal to take a picture with herself in the frame.

Others who do not intentionally put themselves in danger can befall injury by simply not paying attention to their surroundings when focusing on getting the perfect shot. Take, for instance, this woman, who narrowly avoided being hit on the head with a baseball when snapping a picture at a stadium.

Or the 32-year-old who died in a car crash on an American highway minutes aftertaking a selfie and posting it to Facebook while enjoying Pharrell Williams’ hit song, Happy, in her vehicle.

This Danish fighter pilot took a selfie while launching a missile from his F-16 aircraft, which probably isn’t the type of thing one should be doing when flying a plane and firing a missile. Rather than focusing on, you know, flying a plane and firing a missile.

People putting themselves at risk for likes and shares and favourites on social media is not limited to selfie-taking. Viral trends have included planking (lying in a prone position in unusual locations) and tomb-stoning – jumping from cliffs into the sea – to film and photograph.

Perhaps in growing recognition of the risks involved in creating a shocking viral picture, more creative and sensible types have started mocking up pictures in Photoshop instead. Including this humorous one featuring a cat chased by dogs, entitled “the last selfie”.

cat taking selfie of being chased by dogs
A mock-up of a cat selfie, chased by dogs. Because internet. Photograph: Screengrab

There’s no doubt humour to be found in outrageous and daring selfies. The two girls escorted from a baseball field after an invasion mid-match to take a vine was an impressive example of chutzpah. There’s also beauty to be found in extraordinary selfies, such as those taken from space.

But as a society we need to get a grip on the real value of attempting an unusual selfie in situations which could, by even the most rudimentary observation or assessment, be deemed potentially harmful. If two teens blown up on a mountainside leaving behind a tragic, meaningless .png file isn’t a solid enough wake-up call, I don’t know what is.


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