Australian police and the country’s prime minister have warned of the dangers of “planking,” a viral internet trend, after the death of a 20-year-old man.
The Australia-born “planking” craze,” in which people post photos on Facebook of themselves lying prone in weird locations, is becoming an international phenomenon, with a “Global Planking Day” set to be held on May 25. A Facebook page called “Planking Australia” has more than 120,000 “likes.”
But there are growing concerns over safety as “plankers” try to outdo each other to get the craziest photo, CNN reports.
On Sunday, a 20-year-old man fell to his death while trying to balance on the balcony of a high-rise building in Queensland, Australia.
"This morning we have seen a young man take this activity a step further and attempt to plank on a balcony," Deputy Commissioner Ross Barnett of the Queensland Police told AFP. "Unfortunately he has tragically fallen to his death. Police fear that as planking gains popularity there may be more injuries and potentially further deaths."
"The potential disaster increases as more and more risks are taken to get the ultimate photo," a statement issued by the Queensland police said.
Acton Beale, 20, died when he lost his footing and fell from the balcony railing of a high-rise building as he attempted to "plank” while being photographed by a friend.
Last week, a man caught photographing himself on top of a Queensland police car was arrested and charged with trespassing.
The trend is said to have been started as the "Lying Down Game" before reappearing online in recent months as "planking," where people lie stiff as a board, hands at their sides, in unexpected places.
An Australian rugby league player David "Wolfman" Williams was spotted planking during a game to celebrate scoring, while one of the country’s leading talk show hosts opened a recent show by planking on the TV sofa.
A Brisbane psychologist has warned of the “Jackass effect,” and said to expect more deaths as young men push themselves to extremes.
"Add testosterone, add masculinity, add the Jackass effect and then add the explosion of social networking sites which are a way to gain acceptance ... (and) death is quite inevitable," Paul Martin told Australia’s Herald Sun.
Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard described the death of Acton Beale as “really tragic.”
“There's a difference between a harmless bit of fun done somewhere that's really safe and taking a risk with your life,'' Gillard told reporters in Sydney. “Everybody likes a bit of fun, but focus has to be on keeping yourself safe first.''