Fall from North Okanagan waterfall prompts warning about dangerous selfies | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Fall from North Okanagan waterfall prompts warning about dangerous selfies

A rescuer scales Fintry Falls Aug. 5
Image Credit: SUBMITTED/Vernon Search and Rescue
August 07, 2018 - 5:16 PM

VERNON - The selfie snapper who fell 150-foot down a waterfall at the waterfalls in Fintry Provincial Park last weekend may have miraculously survived unhurt, but according to experts the snap-happy public need to pay far more attention when thinking about photo ops while out in the wilderness.

The incident Aug. 5 saw Vernon Search and Rescue Society called out to rescue a man who had slipped and fallen 150-foot after taking a photo at the top of a waterfall in Fintry Falls provincial park. The man had reached down to pick up his phone after he dropped it just before he fell.

The man fell into a pool at the bottom of the waterfall and amazingly survived the fall with very little injury. Vernon Search and Rescue Society public information officer Trevor Honigman confirmed the phone had survived the fall, but he wasn't aware of whether the phone fell with the man, or separately.

AdventureSmart B.C. executive director and B.C. coordinator Sandra Riches said the need to take selfies and post them to social media has led some people to go places out of their skill zone.

"[It's a] false invitation to go to the peak, to go to the edge, go to the top, to paddle this and hike that, and take those pictures and post them," she said, "but people don't always know what it takes to get there and the hazards surrounding that area."

Riches said AdventureSmart B.C. is focussing some of their education on "situational awareness" and "logic decision making" in response to a spike of incidents over the last two years. Riches points to the fact last Sunday's waterfall incident was one of seven waterfall incidents so far this year, four of which were fatal. Earlier in July, three people died at Shannon Falls near Squamish, and in a separate incident, a body was recovered from a river in the Wells Gray area.

While not all selfie-related behaviour is fatal — an incident in 2016 saw two teenagers rescued from a cliff in Kalamalka Lake after trying to find the perfect vantage point for a photo — the number of calls to search and rescue is on the rise.

Vernon Search and Rescue Group Society public information officer Trevor Honigman couldn't speak to the number of selfie-related incidents search and rescue had directly responded to, but said the number of call-outs VSAR receive has increased greatly over the last five years.

Honigman said in 2012 VSAR received about 35 call-outs, but that number had risen to 87 by 2017. Honigman said numbers for this year were on par with last year's. The types of call-outs have also changed said Honigman, whereas VSAR used to receive more search calls, they now receive more rescue calls.

"It used to be people were missing and we'd have to find them first and then rescue them," he said.

Electronic GPS gadgets and cell phones have in some ways changed that. Honigman describes cell phones and social media as a double-edged sword. While a cellphone's GPS system may help VSAR locate someone, people come to rely on them too much. Both Honigman and Riches stress people need to be prepared to go into the bush and along with food, water and the correct clothing, they need to take a map and compass — and know how to use them — and take their cell phone as a back-up for emergencies.

While the man that fell down Fintry Falls on Aug. 5 survived unhurt after slipping while reaching for his phone, selfie stories from around the globe range from the amusing to the macabre. In 2008 a passenger on a train in France had to be rescued after having his arm was sucked down the toilet while trying to retrieve his cell phone and footage from India this year shows a man mauled to death by a bear while trying to take a selfie.

A study released in 2017 from researchers at universities in the U.S. and India reported 127 people had died worldwide from March 2014 to September 2016 in selfie-related incidents. The study titled, Me, Myself and My Killfie: Characterizing and Preventing Selfie Deaths found that around 60 per cent of these selfie deaths happened in India. Canada was not found in the top 20 list of selfie fatalities.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Ben Bulmer or call (250) 718-0428 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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