Online 'planking' craze warning after death

By Greg Ansley, Amelia Wade

Image from the Planking New Zealand Facebook site. Photo / Supplied
Image from the Planking New Zealand Facebook site. Photo / Supplied

New Zealanders are being warned that the internet craze of "planking" could lead to injury or worse, following the death of an Australian man.

Acton Beale, 20, of Main St, Kangaroo Point in Brisbane, had "planked" on a narrow balcony railing before slipping and falling several storeys to his death.

Victoria and New South Wales police have warned against the craze and said plankers trespassing or planking in dangerous locations would be charged.

"As people become more and more competitive and try more and more obscure and difficult episodes of planking, which inevitably lead to greater levels of risk, this is the sort of thing that will eventuate and no one wants to see that," Queensland's Deputy Police Commissioner Ross Barnett said.

"It might seem like fun but as this episode has shown, it carries great risk."

NetSafe New Zealand's executive director, Martin Cocker, said it was only a matter of time before planking became as popular in New Zealand as it was in Australia.

"I'm sure through social networking sites, it'll catch on. These sorts of things normally do," he said.

"But the danger with these sorts of crazes is that they can become quite competitive and the link of people doing it through social networking can up the stakes very quickly - for the 10 minutes of cyber-fame."

He said so far it had been only harmless fun in New Zealand and there had not yet been any injuries he was aware of.

More than 130 people are members of various New Zealand Facebook groups dedicated to the craze.

Among the locations chosen by keen New Zealand plankers in photos posted on the site were pedestrian crossings, netball hoops and a pier.

The number of fans on Planking Australia's site has surged to more than 80,000, with a number of new advocates saying they had not heard of the craze until the Queensland tragedy.

In Brisbane, police said Beale's death had confirmed their fears and that as the craze gained popularity there could be more injuries and fatalities.

Plankers defended the craze on Facebook.

"So one guy dies and the planking police come out! Who is next, the walking police? I mean people die every day just walking out their doors? Or what about the driving police? The swimming police? Anyone else?" wrote Rhiannon Downie.

Ron Adrian Blomstervik agreed: "So we should all stop doing the things we think is fun because we can die doing it? Say goodbye to almost every sport in the world! Is that really what u want?"

But others condemned planking.

"A life is gone because of this stupid craze. Someone decided, 'hey this looks like fun' and freaking died! Wake up to yourselves," wrote Tracey-Lee O'Brien.

Australian planking Facebook page founder Sam Weckert said in a statement that Mr Beale's death should not be sensationalised and warned against dangerous acts.

"Planking was started as a fun and quirky pastime and while we have no control over the actions of others we'd like to encourage any members of the planking group and the general public to undertake this in a safe and responsible fashion," he said.

WHAT IS PLANKING?

* A person is photographed lying flat and face down in a precarious and novel spot.
* The images are posted on social media sites, such as Facebook.
* Icons such as ancient monuments in Egypt or the Arc de Triomphe in Paris have been suggested as prime planking spots.
* The craze began about four years ago in Europe and has since gained global popularity.

- NZ Herald

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