Death by Selfie: 11 Disturbing Stories of Social Media Pics Gone Wrong - Rolling Stone
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Death by Selfie: 11 Disturbing Stories of Social Media Pics Gone Wrong

Fatal poses with walruses, bulls and even a live grenade

The never-ending pursuit of the ultimate shot for social media sharing has reached a startling new height: 8,000 feet above sea level. This month, a grown man fell to his death while posing for a picture on a ledge at Machu Picchu, the ancient Incan citadel in Peru. But death by selfie at a temple built for human sacrifice begs the question: How far would you go to get that killer shot?

The facts speak for themselves. In 2015, more people died from taking selfies than from shark attacks. Tourist destinations such as Mumbai have gone so far as to designate selfie-free zones. Even the notoriously unsympathetic Russian government issued a manual for how to safely take a selfie. Our need to capture the present moment via social media has completely changed the way we experience life, and a tragic irony presents itself when that results in death. 

From falling down the steps of the Taj Mahal to being gored alive by wild animals, here are the 11 most disturbing stories of selfies gone disastrously wrong. 

Selfie, Stick, Lightning, Rod

Night thunder storm lightning in sky.


Selfie Stick Lightning Rod

In July 2015, an unnamed English hiker was struck by lightning while trekking through the Brecon Beacons National Park in Wales. The fatal bolt was suspected to have hit the extended metal rod of a selfie stick and electrocuted the young man. Apparently, an unexpected thunderstorm came and gave rescue helicopters little time to find the man. But it was too late, despite a Royal Marine cadet's attempt to resuscitate him. Though it has never been proven conclusively, authorities believe that the metal rod very well could have have attracted the electrical bolt.

Walrus, Liaoning Zoo, Weihei, Eastern China, selfie


Deadly Walrus

A Chinese businessman named Jia Lijun tried to take a selfie with a one-and-a-half-ton walrus at a zoo in Liaoning province, China. Apparently, the man was a big fan of this particular walrus, having previously sent photos and videos of it to his friends and family along with the message, "so strong, so big." As the man entered the gated housing area to snap a photo with the female walrus, she grabbed him from behind and dragged him into the pool. Both Lijun and the on-site zookeeper (who had cared for the walrus since she was a baby) were drowned to death by the massive-toothed creature, who was reportedly only trying to play and give them a "hug." A surveillance video taken of the incident went viral on Chinese social media. 

Drawn, Bangui, Waves


A Deadly Current

Chezka Agas, a 17-year-old engineering student from the Philippines, was swept into a deadly wave on the beach on Bangui Bay during a birthday gathering. She was part of a group of engineering students in attendance that posed for a celebratory photo-op in front of the scenic Bangui windmills when the group became caught in the overpowering ocean current. Several of the party guests were injured, but only Agas drowned in the wave. She was pronounced dead at the scene. According to her mother, Agas had been looking forward to the event for weeks and was only allowed to go because "she needed to relax."

Accidental, Explosion, live, grenade


Accidental Explosion

Two Russian soldiers in the Urals region west of Siberia were posing for a selfie with a live grenade. The handheld explosive detonated unexpectedly and, going off in their faces. Only the phone with the photo survived. Russia in particular has seen an alarming number of selfie-related deaths, becoming such a problem that the government launched a safety campaign, urging people to use caution while taking selfies.

Ultimate Selfie, train


“Ultimate Selfie” Gone Wrong

A teenage Romanian girl had attempted to take the special selfie on top of a train in the northern town of Iasi, Romania. According to a friend, 18-year-old Anna Urso was planning to post this "ultimate selfie" on Facebook. Urso decided to lie down on the roof of the stationary train car, but when she reached up with one of her legs to pose, but she hit an overhead live wire that shocked her with 27,000 volts. The young girl immediately burst into flames and was pronounced dead at the hospital after suffering burns on over half her of her body.

Pampalona, Spain, Bulls

Evrim Aydin/Anadolu Agency/Getty

Stay Away From the Bulls

A 32 year-old man was gored to death by a steer during the 2014 annual running with the bulls in Pamplona, Spain. When David Gonzalez Lopez left the audience-protected area to capture a selfie in front of two bulls about to collide, a third bull ran from behind and fatally pierced Gonzalez's neck and thigh with its horns. As a horrified witness reported, "He looked like a puppet spinning around in the air because he didn't fall to the ground." The festivities were promptly suspended thereafter. Gonzalez is the sixteenth person to be killed by a bull at this yearly Spanish ceremony.  

selfie, Posing, Gun

Scott Olson/Getty

Posing With a Gun

A teenage boy in India shot himself in the head while posing for a selfie with his father's .32 caliber pistol. The victim, 15-year-old Ramandeep Singh, had meant to tap the camera button but accidentally set off the gun instead. According to authorities, the safety had not been switched on. Death by selfie is a disturbingly common occurrence among young people in India, where Prime Minister Narendra Modi declared it a national problem after the country set the record for selfie-related fatalities in 2015.

Selfie, Cessna 150, 150K plane


Don’t Selfie and Fly

A deadly plane crash occurred in May 2014 in Colorado when the pilot lost control of the airplane while posing to take a selfie. He proceeded to crash the Cessna 150 into a nearby wheat field, killing both himself and another passenger upon impact. It's been said that 29-year-old amateur pilot, Amritpal Singh, was reported to have frequently engaged in this kind of behavior, including texting while manipulating the airplane. A GoPro camera was discovered in the aftermath on the morning after the accident, revealing more footage of the pilot taking mid-flight selfies at low altitudes.

step, Taj Mahal, selfie

Misstep at the Taj Mahal

A 66-year-old Japanese tourist lost his balance and fell backwards to his death down the steps of the Taj Mahal in September 2015. According to an eyewitness, the man had reportedly been trying to take a selfie at the Royal Gate of the grand mausoleum. Onlookers watched on as the injured man, later identified as Hideto Ueda, was carried off the 17th-century monument by paramedics. He suffered severe head trauma from the fall and died in the hospital. The postmortem reported that Ueda had also experienced a heart attack.

Bridge, Climbed, selfie

Alain Jocard/AFP/Getty

Last Bridge She Climbed

A 17-year-old Russian teenager fell off a 30-foot railway bridge in St. Petersburg while attempting to get the perfect shot. Xenia Ignatyeva, an amateur photographer, had climbed up the bridge one night in April of 2014 to take a selfie. The police surmised she had wanted to capture "the most dramatic effect." But when the young woman lost her balance, she reached for a hanging cable – which turned out to be a live wire that electrocuted her with 1,500 watts – and she plummeted to her death. A friend was waiting for her at the bottom of the bridge, when Ignatyeya's body fell beside her. It is believed that she'd been alive until hitting the ground. 

cliffs, Cabo da Roca, selfie

Paul Almasy/Corbis/Getty

Accidental Cliff Dive

A Polish couple's two young children watched as their parents climbed over the safety barrier and fell to their deaths while taking a selfie on a cliff in Cabo da Roca, Portugal. Once they took a step backwards to angle their shot, they tumbled off of the edge and into the perilous Atlantic Ocean below. Both bodies were not recovered until a day later, as dangerous weather and sea levels prevented their rescue. The traumatized children, ages five and six, were put into the care of Polish diplomats after witnessing the horrifying scene. 

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