Sunday, May 15, 2011

How Brisbane planking death of Acton Beale is fueling a dangerous web craze

THE art of planking is spreading like a virus around the world fuelled by news of a man's fatal seven story plunge from a Brisbane unit block. 
In what is thought to be Australia's first planking fatality, Acton Beale, 20, of Kangaroo Point, slipped when he tried to plank on a 5cm wide balcony railing outside his front door.
By 8am this morning the Planking Australia Facebook page had more than 85,000 followers, up from 65,000 last night and growing by the hour. New planking pages were opened in Ireland, the United Kingdom and Norway, while the trend is also attracting a huge amount of interest in the United States.
"I didn't know about planking til I heard the news. This is not a dangerous sport promoting stupidity. It's just a random thing for fun as far as I'm concerned. That death is no different to teens drinking and driving or jumping from the balcony to a pool," Nick Möllers writes.
The R.I.P. Acton Beale Facebook page attracted a barrage of comments both condemning and applauding planking and Mr Beale's death.

"One life has been lost because of this! Think of what could happen if it went wrong. Don't be stupid ... think before you do this!," one person wrote.
 "Those who really knew Acton will remember him for a lot more than one small moment of misjudgement. Have a little respect. R.I.P. Mate xoxo," another wrote.
An awesome man missed by many
Before yesterday's death, most posts on the Planking Australia were favourable and light-hearted about the new craze, which was more prevalent in Queensland and Victoria than anywhere else.
Mr Beale's distraught parents, of Tannum Sands near Gladstone, were unable to speak with The Courier-Mail last night.
His friend Lauraine Schmitt said he was "an awesome young man and will be dearly missed by so many".
People at the scene reported hearing "a loud bang" but said they were unaware someone had fallen to their death.

Police are not amused
Queensland police yesterday sent out a general warning about the dangers of planking on its Facebook page, ironically the same means by which planking has gained such a following in Australia.
"Police fear that as planking gains popularity there may be more injuries and potentially further deaths," it said.
Victorian police yesterday claimed they could impose $293 on-the-spot fines if plankers were "walking or climbing on any part of rail premises not intended for passenger use". They warned a similar fine for those who caused "annoyance on/around public transport".
NSW police last night said they were concerned about the trend and considering sending a warning message.
Deputy Commissioner Barnett urged Queenslanders to think before trying to impress others.
"It is what we'd been fearing," he said of Mr Beale's death.
"As people become more and more competitive and try out more and more obscure and difficult episodes of planking . . . these are the sort of things that can eventuate. It might seem like fun but as this episode has shown, it carries great risk."

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