A new craze sweeping the Internet known as “planking” claimed a life in Australia yesterday and police fear the tragedy might not be the last.
Planking involves someone lying flat on their stomach with their arms against their body in unusual and sometimes dangerous situations, with photographs of their exploits shared through social media sites.
It has gone viral in recent weeks, with Facebook page Planking Australia boasting more than 55,000 fans and hundreds of photos of people lying on train tracks, escalators, fire hydrants, motorbikes and other objects.
Police warned “plankers” of the dangers last week and their fears have been realized with the death of a man in Brisbane who plummeted from a seventh-story balcony shortly before 4:30am and died at the scene.
Acton Beale was trying to lay face down on the balcony railing of his apartment when he suddenly fell.
“This morning, we have seen a young man take this activity a step further and attempt to plank on a balcony. Unfortunately, he has tragically fallen to his death,” Queensland Police Deputy Commissioner Ross Barnett said.
Barnett said Beale and another person had gone out on Saturday and had been planking in various spots on their way home.
“It is what we’ve been fearing,” said Barnett, but could not say whether it was Australia’s first death from the craze.
Barnett said he was worried that more injuries would occur as people try to out-plank each other by planking in increasingly precarious positions to get the ultimate photograph.
“Police fear that as planking gains popularity, there may be more injuries and potentially further deaths,” he said, adding that it may appear to be light-hearted fun, but it can quickly turn to tragedy.
“Accepting a risk of injury for yourself is one thing, but the potential is there for others to be injured as a result of your behavior,” Barnett said.
Last week, a 20-year-old, also in Queensland, was arrested after being allegedly found “planking” on a police car. He was charged with being on police equipment without lawful excuse.
Police issued warnings of the dangers at the time, but the publicity only seemed to fuel the fad.
“If other people break the law during this activity, they will be charged as well,” Barnett said. “But no penalty will ever return this young man to his family and friends. This is a tragedy and our condolences go to the family.”
Facebook tributes immediately started pouring in for the dead man.
“R.I.P Fellow planker,” said one posting on the Australian Planking page. “I didn’t know him, but he was a planker like the rest of us.”
“Stay safe dudes, plank carefully,” another wrote.
However, not everyone was sympathetic.
“Seriously, people are so dumb. Get over this stupid planking thing,” another post said.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY STAFF WRITER