top of page

Death by Selfies

By Pebbles Mendoza

Have you ever felt the urge to take a souvenir photo of yourself standing at the edge of a scenic cliff or on top of a waterfall? I know that I am. But apparently this never-ending quest to capture the best shot to share on social media can have deadly consequences.

According to a study from researchers from the All India Institute of Medical Sciences based in New Delhi, more than 250 people around the world have died taking selfies in the last six years.

While the simple act of taking a souvenir, photo is pretty harmless in itself, accidents are bound to happen when travelers put themselves in risky situations just to get the perfect shot. What’s sadder is that these deaths usually involve younger travelers. Studies show that more than 85 percent of the victims were between the ages of 10 and 30, and about three quarters were men.

The easiest way to prevent these deaths from happening is just not take selfies in dangerous places in the first place. Travelers need to be educated regarding certain risky behaviors and risky places where selfies should not be taken. Here are just some of the most common causes of selfie-related deaths and how to avoid them.

Falling from Heights

One of the most common causes of selfie-related deaths is falling from heights. For some reason, photos on top buildings or at the edge of a precarious-looking cliff are wildly popular on social media.

For instance, an 18-year-old hiker from Jerusalem died after falling off a cliff at Yosemite National Park. In California, a 32-year-old fell slipped and fell to her death after stopping at the edge of a cliff to snap selfies. Yet another tourist has fallen off a ledge at Machu Picchu, the ancient Incan citadel in Peru.

When traveling, never go beyond the designated view decks or roped areas in these sites for photo purposes. In areas with cliffs, make sure the platform is secure. And for heaven’s sake, no jump shots in dangerous spots, please!


Drowning is actually the number one cause of death involving tourists taking selfies.

In India, three members of the same family drowned while trying to take a selfie in a deep pond. The men (who were non-swimmers) had set up a camera on the water’s edge to take a photo together.

If you’re traveling in areas with bodies of water, it’s not a bad idea to invest in swimming lessons. If you can’t swim, just take your souvenir photos in areas where the water is shallow. Other safety measures to prevent drowning, include using life jackets and making sure you’re in the company of designated lifeguards or other people who can swim.

Transportation Related Accidents

For some reason, train tracks have become a popular background for photo ops and selfies. There’s something about the visual appeal of the lines that has made railways popular on social media. But in recent years, there have been incidents of people dying while trying to take a selfie in front of an oncoming train.

It sounds like common sense, but if you just have to take a photo in front of a train tracks, make sure it’s an abandoned railway or there’s no oncoming train. Never stand on the edge of a train station platforms and never run across tracks.

In Colorado, a deadly plane crash occurred when the pilot lost control of the airplane while posing to take a selfie. 

In London, a mother of two was also killed just moments after taking a smiling selfie while riding her bike when she hit a bumpy patch of road and lost control of her bike.

Never ever take a selfie when you are the one operating a vehicle and you’re still moving. If you’re a passenger, make sure your act of your taking a photo won’t distract the driver of the vehicle. You can always take souvenir photos before or after the vehicle takes off. If you want to take video footage, smaller action cameras securely mounted to your body or somewhere in the vehicle can let you enjoy the experience while keeping your hands free.

Animal Attacks

Animal attacks are another common cause of selfie-related deaths. In India, a man who tried to take a selfie with an injured bear was mauled to death. Meanwhile, a Chinese businessman was crushed by an overly friendly one-and-a-half-ton walrus at a zoo in Liaoning province “who was trying to play with him” while he attempted to take a selfie with. The annual running with the bulls in Spain claimed the life of a man who left the audience-protected area to try and get a selfie in front of bulls about to collide.

If you encounter animals in the wild, never provoke them and always keep a safe distance. Is it really necessary to have your face in the same photo as the wild animals? Why not just take photos from afar? They’d make a far better subject. Telephoto lenses can tourists a better view of animals from a safe distance.

Firearms and Electrocution

Accidents involving firearms and electrocution are also common among travelers.

A 15-year-old boy in India accidentally shot himself while posing for a selfie with his father’s .32 caliber pistol. According to sources, he had meant to tap the camera button but accidentally set off the gun instead.

Guardians should always assume a firearm is loaded and never let minors handle them. Make sure the safety is on.

Meanwhile, in Russia, a teenager was killed while attempting to take a self-portrait after climbing up a railway bridge and touching live wires.

It would help if certain areas are restricted to prevent people from being able to access them. Posting large signs on the hazards might serve as a deterrent to travelers.

Researchers advocate that designated “no selfie zones” be put in places such as near bodies of water, mountain peaks, and over tall buildings to decrease the incidence of selfie-related deaths.

As travelers, it all boils to just using your common sense. Remember, that no photo is worth risking your life for.


Recent Posts

See All

1 Comment

Commenting has been turned off.
Simon Gibson
Simon Gibson
Jun 29, 2020

I find it irritating on photohraphs supposedly illustrating a beautiful or interesting location when all we have are selfies with hints of the location hidden behind someone's head or behind a group of people.

bottom of page