In yet another instance of death-by-selfie in India, a 13-year-old boy was burnt alive after coming in contact with a live wire while clicking selfies atop a train coach in the Gajapati district in the east Indian state of Odisha, on December 16. He was accompanied by two friends who were also injured, police said.
The coach, which has been converted into a COVID isolation unit, was kept at the Paralakhemundi railway station. The deceased, P Surya Kumar, was a resident of Chandra Sahi, which comes under Paralakhemundi police limits. While he was electrocuted and died at the spot, his two friends suffered burn injuries and are being treated. Sources said that the three took advantage of the beat constable’s absence to take selfies. While one climbed atop the coach, two waited their turn below. In the ordeal, the jute mat that covered the top of the coach also caught fire and had to be doused by firefighters.
“The teenager came in contact with the high voltage live wire when he was taking his selfie. He fell down from the coach, which also caught fire thereafter. Two of his friends who attempted to rescue him also sustained injuries. The three were immediately rushed to the nearby hospital where one succumbed to the injuries,” sources told The New Indian Express.
The accident affected train services on some routes. The Railway Protection Force (RPF) also reached the spot and proceeded to conduct further inquiry. Meanwhile, the Divisional Railway Manager of Waltair has constituted a committee to probe into the incident. Like other train coaches converted to isolation wards to accommodate India’s vast numbers of infected patients, the one at Paralakhemundi too was prepared to receive patients in the region.
Braving unconventional stunts to achieve impressive selfies has caused enough deaths in India for the country to claim the highest number of recorded selfie deaths in the world. From 2011-2017, India accounted for nearly half of the 259 reported fatalities, according to a study by the US National Library of Medicine.
“India might be high up on this list only because half of its population is under 25,” clinical psychologist Raghu Shankar told VICE. “You find selfie-taking particularly popular among young adults because their sense of self is still evolving, and getting a ‘like’ on their photos adds to their self-esteem.”
According to Shankar, “Group selfies are more prevalent in India when compared to other countries,” he says, pointing out that people in groups tend to be less aware of their surroundings.
Explaining the craze for getting selfies in the wackiest of situations, most recent cases of selfie deaths in India are tied when it comes to how bizarre they are.
In October 2019, a newly married woman and three of her kin drowned as a group of six held hands and posed for a selfie in a reservoir in the southern state of Tamil Nadu.
In Haryana state in May 2019, three teenagers taking selfies on a railway track jumped out of the way when they saw a train approaching, only to be run over by another train coming in the other direction.
In 2017, a man died in Karnataka as he was crushed by the trunk of the elephant he was trying to get a selfie with, after illegally entering the Bannerghatta Biological Park in Bengaluru.
This worrying trend has been picked up on by the government, who has tried to employ various methods to prevent such deaths. In 2017, the Karnataka government launched a campaign to warn citizens about how “selfies can kill” after losing multiple young students to selfie-related deaths. In 2018, the western state of Goa also identified 24 “no selfie zones” along its coastline to prevent these mishaps. This regulation came after tourists ignored warning signs posted in many dangerous areas, causing the government to take a stricter step. In 2019, states were also asked to identify “no selfie zones” at all tourist destinations across the country, although there haven’t been updates on the process since then.
In a bid to warn people against such daredevilry, Mumbai Police also tweeted a disturbing video of a man falling off the roof of a building.
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