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Young man falls seven floors to his death in Facebook "planking" gone wrong

The tragedy of Acton Beale, 20, has focused attention on the “lying down game” phenomenon – with even the man who started the planking craze saying it has gone too far.

The Brisbane skyline at night
The Brisbane skyline at night
Image: Burning Image via Flickr

A MAN PLUNGED TO HIS death from a seventh-floor balcony in Australia yesterday – apparently while taking part in the Facebook phenomenon of “planking”.

Acton Beale, 20, fell off the balcony railing of an apartment block in central Brisbane around 4.30am local time. Emergency services were called but he died a short time later, the Brisbane Times reports.

Planking, also known as the “lying down game”, involves its devotees being photographed while lying flat face down in unlikely places. It spread rapidly around the world after apparently beginning in Australia several years ago, and its Facebook page – which carries photos of people planking on top of traffic bollards and fast food drive-thrus – now has more than 140,000 ‘likes’. However, several recent commenters have criticised the meme, with one calling it “an all-time low in stupidity”.

Today Australian prime minister Julia Gillard weighed in on the debate, telling journalists: “Everybody likes a bit of fun, but focus has to be on keeping yourself safe first,” the Guardian reports.

And even the man who claims to have started the craze has now called for his followers to rein in their hijinks. Matt Fernandez, 24, from Melbourne, says he thought of the idea in 2004. He told the Herald Sun: “The main intention wasn’t for it to be done on police cars or on train tracks. I’m really impressed with how it’s changed, but I urge that everyone does it safely.”

Police in Queensland – who last week charged a man for planking on top of a patrol car – said the danger arises when devotees of the pastime try to outdo one another.  According to the Sydney Morning Herald, Deputy Commissioner Ross Barnett said: “If you want to take a photo of yourself planking on a park bench two foot off the ground, there are no risks with that. But when you start doing it seven stories up or lying across a railway line, that’s what we have a concern about. Is it worth life in a wheelchair to take a funny photo to impress somebody you don’t know on the Internet?”

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Michael Freeman

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