‘Selfie epidemic’: How Israeli teenager fell to his death in Yosemite


Excerpt from this story from Mercury News:

Frankfurter’s death, on Sept. 4 of last year, was reported widely. But the dramatic details of the accident — one of a growing number of fatalities involving young people in search of spectacular photos, often to post on Instagram, Facebook or other social media — have not been made public until now, after being obtained by this organization through a Freedom of Information Act request.

For generations, visitors have taken risks at Yosemite, the Grand Canyon and other national parks. Some have died by getting too close to cliffs or waterfalls while trying to photograph landscapes. A man from Hong Kong died this week at the Grand Canyon when he stumbled while taking a photo and fell 1,000 feet.

Now, however, the internet and social media are changing the equation. The goal is often not to come back with a scenic photo, but rather to come back with a photo of yourself taking a risk, experts say.

“It appears to be a selfie epidemic,” said Michael Ghiglieri, co-author of “Off the Wall: Death in Yosemite,” a 2007 book about fatal accidents in the park. “Today people are trying to prove that they did something,” Ghiglieri said. “In the old days people went out to have an experience. Now they go out to record that they had that experience.”

Between 2011 and 2017, at least 259 people around the world died while attempting to take selfies, according to a study published last year in the Journal of Family Medicine and Primary Care.

Their average age was 23. Three-quarters were male. The most common causes of death were drowning, often by being swept into the ocean by big waves; transportation accidents, like being hit by a moving train; and falling from high places.

“Most people will say, ‘I want the photo, but it’s too dangerous,‘” said Ghiglieri, a former Vietnam-era Army platoon sergeant who has led more than 600 outdoor trips to places as diverse as the Grand Canyon and Rwanda.  “Some people — and it’s almost always guys — recognize it’s dangerous, but they don’t internalize it as dangerous. They perceive it like a Hollywood movie set. It’s a disconnect.”

Ghiglieri said there’s not much that national parks can do.

“It’s impossible,” he said. “Even if you built miles of cyclone fencing, someone would climb over it.”

‘Selfie epidemic’: How Israeli teenager fell to his death in Yosemite