WEIRD NEWS
24/09/2015 3:46 AM AEST | Updated 25/09/2015 12:35 AM AEST

Selfie Accidents Have Killed More People Than Sharks This Year

But both types of fatalities are pretty rare.

Selfie-related accidents have killed more people worldwide this year than shark attacks have, and they’ve killed at least twice as many if you include only “unprovoked,” confirmed shark attacks.

Conde Nast Traveler reported on Sept. 16 that 11 people had died during selfie accidents, while eight people worldwide were killed in shark attacks. The story picked up steam with the recent death of a tourist who fell down the stairs at the Taj Mahal while trying to snap a selfie, bringing the tally up to 12. Mashable created an infographic to illustrate how much deadlier careless selfies are compared to shark attacks.

Conde Nast Traveler got its figures from the Shark Attack Survivors news archives, but, George Burgess, director of the International Shark Attack File at the Florida Museum of Natural History, said those archives don't take the circumstances of shark encounters into consideration.

Burgess said that only six, rather than eight, fatal shark attacks should be counted in the tally, because in one of the incidents it's not clear if the shark may have been "provoked," and the other may not have even been a shark attack.

Burgess classifies one of the attacks in the SAS news archives as "provoked" because it involved a diver carrying a bag of scallops, which worked as bait to attract a shark. He also pointed to another alleged attack, which was actually a case of a man who disappeared at sea. Though his body showed up later with wounds consistent with shark bites, it wasn't clear if he died in a shark attack, or whether sharks had scavenged on his body after he died.

Though the Conde Nast Traveler and Mashable articles don't detail the 12 selfie-related deaths, they are listed on Wikpedia:

1. An American woman fell to her death while taking a selfie with her boyfriend on a cliff in South Africa.

2, 3. Two Russian men were killed while taking a selfie with a hand grenade.

4,5,6. Three Indian students were killed by an oncoming train while taking selfies on train tracks.

7. A Romanian teenager was electrocuted when she was taking a selfie on top of a train and touched a high-voltage wire.

8. A Russian teen was also electrocuted after touching live wires while taking a selfie near railway tracks.

9. A Russian woman shot herself in the head while trying to take a selfie with a gun.

10. A woman in Moscow City died falling from a bridge, where she was trying to take a selfie.

11. A teenager in Houston, Texas, fatally shot himself while taking a selfie with a gun.

12. A Japanese tourist died falling down the stairs while taking a selfie at the Taj Mahal.

There is, however, some evidence that there may be other selfie-related deaths that we don't know about because they didn't make international headlines. Yelena Alexeyeva, an aide to the Russian interior minister, told the Agency France-Presse in July that there have been “dozens of selfie-related deaths” in Russia alone.

According to Burgess, the media’s focus on shark attacks gives the public a warped idea of how dangerous they really are, since every time a shark attack happens, it’s a major news story -- unlike fatalities resulting from more common tragedies, such as car accidents.

“I see it as a problem for our understanding of society and understanding sharks and the natural environment,” he said. 

Burgess noted that whether shark attacks have killed six or eight people this year, or whatever the hard numbers on selfie-related deaths may be, the real story is that sharks should be much more worried about humans than the other way around.

“The fact of the matter is we’re killing between 30 and 70 million sharks a year in fisheries,” Burgess said. “The real aggressor in this relationship isn’t the shark, it’s the human.”

Contact the author of this article at Hilary.Hanson@huffingtonpost.com

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