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Invasion of Public Privacy

Two weeks ago my husband and I took five of our nieces and nephews for the weekend.

We went to out neighborhood community pool for the day for swimming and fun. All five (ages 4-12) have taken swimming lessons and the 4 year old had on arm floaties as an extra precaution.

We know the lifeguards well at our neighborhood pool and they asked who had taken swim lessons. They are vigilant, thank goodness.

While we were swimming, I turned my head to look at the other 3 children to my right. In a span of about five seconds, my 7 year old nephew to the left of me stepped into deeper water and got a big enough gulp of water to make him panic and begin to drown. Drowning is silent and quick. The lifeguard blew her whistle and was pulling him out within seconds. Afterwards when we pieced together what happened she said that the whole ordeal from me turning my head to her reaching him lasted 10-15 seconds. It can happen so quickly.

She pulled him out and he had lost consciousness for a few moments. She was about to start CPR. These moments seemed like an eternity for all of us and honestly, they were the worst and most agonizing moments of my life.

A gentleman who was there with his kids stepped over the lifeguard and the lifeless body of my nephew and began to point his camera and take pictures. I screamed at him to get out of the way and stop taking pictures. When he continued, my husband screamed at him several times and he finally walked away. This all happened during the precious moments that the lifeguard was assessing and attempting to revive him. Turns out she didn’t need to do CPR. He began breathing on his own very quickly.

I’m so very thankful that this story has a happy ending but was absolutely astonished and appalled at this man’s behavior.

I told the lifeguard afterwards what happened and she said she hadn’t known about any of that because she was so focused. She went up to the man and demanded his camera and deleted the pictures he took and asked him to leave. He did so without ever saying anything to us.

Again I’m so happy this story has a happy ending. As a side note, please be careful this summer in the pool. And please, before you make any comments about us not being careful or cautious, we absolutely were. Children drown with the most careful of parents nearby. 0625-15

Similar situation this past week when a 12 year old girl had her arm bitten off by a shark while swimming in the ocean at a beach in North Carolina.  Someone took photos of the scene on the beach afterwards as people worked on her and these were plastered all over the news.

Even though these incidents do occur in public, bystanders should show some discretion, restraint and empathy to not take photos.

{ 88 comments }

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  • Ashley June 25, 2015, 10:26 am

    Over in England recently there was an incident at a theme park called Alton Towers, one of the roller coasters malfunctioned and a cart full of people crashed into an empty cart that was stuck on the track. Because of the design of the cart (Open in the front), the riders in the front row had their legs pinched between their cart and the empty cart. One woman had to have her leg amputated and everyone else in that front row suffered some pretty serious injuries.

    They did an interview with one of the men who was injured (from his hospital bed), and he says one of the things he remembers most about the incident was watching people whip out their phones and start filming, rather than going to get help or anything. He said he screamed at one of the girls filming “Put your phone down and go find some help!!” or something to that effect.

    Part of me is at least a little glad for the cell phone culture in this world because there are cases where it helps solve crimes. But other parts of it like the story from OP, the story from Admin, and the Alton Towers thing disgust me. There was NO reason to be taking pictures of OP’s nephew, and everyone in the shark incident and the Alton Towers incident should have made sure people were getting the help they needed rather than filming with the intent to put it on the internet.

  • Enna June 25, 2015, 10:30 am

    I am happy to hear this story had a happy ending and I agree with Admin on this 100% how could someone be so stupid?

  • ladyv June 25, 2015, 10:42 am

    I know that with the proliferation of cell phones nowadays, maintaining any degree of privacy when one is out in public seems to be a thing of the past. However, it still horrifies me that some people have no sense of when it is completely inappropriate to use their phones to take pictures. There are situations where someone taking photos has actually been in the way of emergency personnel, and been angry about being shoved out of the way. The idiot in this situation should have given some thought to how he would feel if it had been HIS family member lying on the ground, possibly dead or dying.

  • Jess June 25, 2015, 10:58 am

    I am always amazed at those who take pictures…. much like those who drive by car accidents slowly to take pictures!

    Good that your nephew is alright, though you may want to make sure he still feels safe going in to the water – a friend of mine (who wasn’t that good a swimmer to begin with) nearly drowned whilst we were on holiday. She has refused to go into a pool since, making her even more worried about water.

  • PrincessButtercup June 25, 2015, 11:14 am

    Thank goodness the lifeguard was good at their job! When I was 15 I was at a pool with two lifeguards when two “friends” held me underwater till I passed out and came back to. One lifeguard was 10 feet away yet neither of them ever noticed or did anything.

    Why on earth would one want pictures of a strange kid on the edge of losing their life?! It’s not even a spectacular occasion with a stunning rescue (like dangling off a bridge and someone risking their life to save the kid). Here’s what I did over my summer vacation, saw some pretty views, relaxed and stood around being unhelpful and in the way while a kid was in a bad situation. Yay me…

    • just4kicks June 28, 2015, 3:32 am

      My mom always tells the story how I almost drowned at a public pool when I was about five years due to some woman pulling a long inflatable raft with five or six kids on it.
      My mom was teaching my sister and I to swim and turned for a second to check on my sister.
      She turned back around and saw I disappeared and freaked out, until she saw me struggling to get out from underneath the raft, which I couldn’t because of all the kids on it kicking their legs.
      She yelled at the lady to stop, there was a small child under her raft.
      As she tells it, she and the lady got into quite a heated argument until a lifeguard intervened.

  • Laura June 25, 2015, 11:56 am

    Maybe not E-Hell approved, but if some guy was taking pictures of my unconscious child- there would be a little more then screaming involved. That camera would have been shoved somewhere very impolite.

    • Mary June 25, 2015, 2:20 pm

      I would have grabbed it and thrown it into the pool.

      • MamaToreen June 25, 2015, 3:57 pm

        Mary, I’d throw him in after it

      • Amanda H. June 25, 2015, 10:59 pm

        I was thinking the same thing, Mary.

    • Pauline June 25, 2015, 4:35 pm

      *than – not then… I’m on a crusade to preserve that word.

      • Skaramouche June 26, 2015, 7:46 am

        :D. We are united in this crusade then. I don’t know why this a/e distinction is so hard but it seems to be…

      • Laura June 29, 2015, 11:56 am

        *insert eyeroll here*. Everyone is entitled to a typo every once in a while. Not necessary.

    • Cat June 25, 2015, 5:16 pm

      Funny, my first thought was, “If ever there was a situation in which I would bite someone in the leg, this would be it.”

  • JD June 25, 2015, 11:57 am

    I’m so glad the lifeguard took measures to keep the photos out of circulation and ejected this horrible man. Why would anyone want photos of someone in this situation? I find that sick or creepy or both.
    OP, I know what you mean; my sister and I took two little girls to our city pool when my sister and I were teens. We were in the water with them the whole time, yet one little girl managed to suddenly dart into the deeper water that was over her head and ours, and she panicked. We went right after her, but she started fighting us and pulling us under in her panic; it was amazing how strong she was in her fear. We were surrounded by people yet it was all so fast, no one noticed what was going on. We finally fought her to the side and calmed her down, but we felt awful.

  • AMC June 25, 2015, 12:10 pm

    What a terrifying incident. I’m glad the OP’s nephew is okay. And a big high-five to the lifeguard!! Not only for saving the boy’s life, but also for making the bystander delete the photos. It really says a lot about his character (or lack thereof) that in the middle of this life and death emergency, his first priority was to take pictures.

    Seriously, in an emergency situation, if you’re not there to help, then the best thing you can do is GET OUT OF THE WAY.

  • Cat June 25, 2015, 12:19 pm

    People seem to be able to watch anything these days and not be horrified by what they see. This was a child who might be dying or dead and he decided to take snapshots. All I can think of is that we have seen so much death and mayhem on TV and in the movies, that nothing is real to us anymore.
    We used to turn away and cover our faces in horror. Now we take pictures so we can show the family when we get home.

  • Kirsten June 25, 2015, 12:49 pm

    What kind of person takes photos of a dying person? Who do you show those to? “hello friends, do you want to come round and see the photos I took of a person dying?” This isn’t a lack of etiquette, it’s a lack of basic human decency.

    I know that in this case the boy survived, but the man didn’t know that’s how it would turn out. His actions are sickening.

    OP, my mum was a competition swimmer and a swimming coach, and she made sure my brother and I were strong swimmers. I’d been a confident swimmer for years when, on a family trip to the pool, I inhaled a lot of water and genuinely thought I might drown. I managed to croak out a “muuummm” and she heard me and swam back and sorted me out, but it was incredibly scary and happened very quickly.

    More recently I was at my local pool, pushed off from the end and instantly my leg and foot went into cramp. I knew by the time I surfaced I wasn’t going to be able to carry on, so I hung onto the lane rope until the cramp passed enough for me to go back to the end. Within about 2 seconds of me stopping swimming and holding the rope, the pool attendant was off his chair, asking me if I was ok and getting ready to dive in for me. I managed to persuade him I could make my own way back to the end and was spared the embarrassment of being rescued, but I’m very grateful for his diligence.

    Even the strongest swimmers can have something go wrong and only a judgemental berk would find fault with you for what happened to your nephew.

  • AS June 25, 2015, 1:12 pm

    My thought is that the man probably wanted to post the pictures on social media to get some attention from friends, or send it to CPS stating negligence! The first one is selfish and mean. The second one is … well, necessary sometimes… but some people just seem to like calling the cops without any solid ground, and they are not really concerned about the child, thereby wasting precious police time.

    I’m not going to blame the OP. As my father used to say when I was growing up – accidents happen; and though a lot of it can be abated by being careful, even the most careful person sometimes cannot avoid it. It is good that the child came out of it safely, and you can all learn your lesson and go ahead with life.

    • Devin June 25, 2015, 2:09 pm

      The fact that man put himself in the way is concerning, but I second what you are thinking. He might have thought he was being helpful recording the incident. What if the lifeguard had incorrectly preformed CPR and hurt the child worse? What if the child had died and this would be evidence in the lawsuit against the community pool? (Thank god that didn’t happen!) But if that were the case, you would think after they discovered the child was okay he would ask if the family or the pool manager would like him to send them the pictures.
      I’m guessing its more of option A, posting to social media to create a sensationalized story.

      • Weaver June 25, 2015, 3:38 pm

        Devin, I don’t see anything in AS‘s comment that suggests that AS thinks that the man who was filming was trying to be helpful. I read it as AS making a general point that some people like to interfere in such cases, maybe very occasionally from decent motives.

      • Weaver June 25, 2015, 3:40 pm

        However I’ve just realised that I might sound like an arrogant fool myself, having re-read my reply. AS and Devin, I’m sorry for putting wrds in your mouths.

      • bern821 June 25, 2015, 4:29 pm

        Wow – so a lifeguard trying to save a child’s life should be filmed so that she can be sued if she ‘incorrectly performed CPR’? And if the boy had drowned while in his aunt’s care it would have been the fault of the public pool and filming was for ‘evidence in the lawsuit’? I don’t think AS was really implying that the idiot with the camera was trying to be helpful. But I find your comments truly disturbing. Although not surprising given the insanely litigious world we live in.
        If everyone who ever tried and failed to save someone’s life using CPR were sued, the world would be devoid of rescuers and good Samaritans. Then who do you sue? God?

        • Devin June 26, 2015, 9:25 am

          One of my first jobs was working at a community pool back in 2002 (before many of the good Samaritan laws were passed). Because we posted that we had lifeguards on duty, we were assuming liability for every patron of that pool, regardless if there was a parent present. Whenever any emergency rescue took place we had to fill out stacks of paper work, and submit copies of training received for every person working that shift. We also had an incident regarding a child who claimed a lifeguard touched him inappropriately while rescuing the child. Luckily in that case the city manager showed the parent rescue swimming training, and she understood if there was an ‘inappropriate’ touch it was in her child’s best interest to remove him from the water as quickly as possible (had their been a video of the rescue it wouldn’t have even been an issue). If you google CPR lawsuit, you’ll be surprised about the numerous articles related to suits settled when someone is injured preforming CPR (one case is the person preforming CPR suing the victim)
          Yes, this view is jaded, but having been (and currently being) trained in CPR/AED/First Aid and a Healthcare Provider, I am at legal risk every time I assist a person.
          And I did state that in this case the man was probably doing it for his 15 minutes of fame, not for the child’s welfare.

          • bern821 July 1, 2015, 5:04 pm

            Oh, man – I don’t think I’ll Google that because it would just make me cry. Everyone is looking for someone to sue anymore. And the thought that you can be sued for saving someone’s life (or at least trying to) just makes me sad. The rest of us are lucky if people like you continue to help others even at the risk of a lawsuit!
            And I can certainly see why you’d have a jaded view.

    • AS June 26, 2015, 4:39 pm

      Replying to the comments – I was actually referring to someone wanting to get the the aunt (OP) in trouble for negligence. They were definitely interfering. And I doubt that he had good intentions.

      I thought of it because we once had a neighbor call police on husband and me a few times. We were fighting once (NO violence involved), and unfortunately, the walls are thin. Another time – not sure what we were doing – might have argued a bit, but nothing big. When the came over officers, we told them that we had a normal husband-wife argument. After they checked around the house, one of them smiled and said “I understand. I have been married for 6 years”.
      I understand that loud noise when the walls are thin is a bad habit. But the police were not called for noise. I asked the officer, and he said that it wasn’t for loud noise, but that someone might have been in trouble.

      We suspect that this might have been the work on an annoying neighbor we had. He often asked me way too many interrogative questions. For example, we were once going to a potluck to a friend’s house across the street, and I told my husband to head off with the food, and I’ll follow. I went down and called called hubby to see if he was waiting for me (he sometimes does that, or walks slowly for me to catch up), but started walking off when I didn’t see him. The said neighbor was smoking outside, and saw me. The next day, he asked me that what we were up to, as it all seemed very strange (he actually said that it was strange!). Another day, he asked me why I wash my clothes so often (um… because I like clean clothes?!?). Another time, he was wondering why there were sounds in our house (I think we were watching the men’s soccer world cup). I have no idea why he thought that he had the needed to ask me all these questions, but it was annoying. And I doubt that he was actually interested in our well being. I can’t quite write everything, but he just gave be bad vibes.

  • bern821 June 25, 2015, 1:37 pm

    Oh. My. God. What is wrong with people??? It’s bad enough that he stepped over the rescue scene and started taking pictures – but to continue to do so after you screamed at him to stop? Disgusting!! Your husband showed great restraint – because I’m picturing my husband in that situation and I’m not sure he wouldn’t have pummeled the guy. Good for him for not making a horrible situation even worse. What the heck would this man have done with the pictures?? I guess sold them to a news network to make a few bucks? So glad the lifeguard deleted his pictures and gave him the boot.
    Thank God your nephew is ok. Something like that CAN happen in the blink of an eye no matter how vigilant you are – especially in the water.

  • Karen L June 25, 2015, 1:39 pm

    Miss Manners used to have advice on the order of “If you can’t be of practical assistance, then help fulfill the need for privacy.”

  • DaDancingPsych June 25, 2015, 2:03 pm

    Our local news station was boosting about a story this morning that was sadly similar and angered me. The man had pulled his car over to ask the news reporter what story she was covering (it was not related to him). The man then slumped over. The news reporter proceeded to act as a good submaritian and remove the man from the vehicle. The cameraman continued to record. The ambulance arrives and they began assessing the man. The cameraman continues to record. The first responders proceed to CPR. The cameraman continues to record. All of these shots were shown on the TV (with the man’s face blurred) as they were boosting how their reporter saved a life. The reporter did the right thing and if they feel that this is a news story, fine. But why did I have to see the whole incident play-by-play on TV??? Tacky if you ask me!!!

  • AnaMaria June 25, 2015, 2:08 pm

    In a photography appreciation class that I took in college, it was emphasized that tragic events should be photographed to preserve history- it’s true that seeing photos of Auschwitz (spelling) or Ground Zero affect people in ways that no history textbook or lecture ever could. However, these photographs are usually taken by professionals from the press, who (hopefully!) know not to interfere with rescue workers or the victims’ loved ones.

    In the case described above, the event was NOT history in the making- children have water accidents every day. Thank God this particular story has a happy ending! And I doubt that man was taking that photo to raise awareness or preserve history- sounds like he just wanted his 15 minutes of fame on social media at the expense of the OP’s family. Props to that lifeguard for the way she handled everything (including dealing with the guy after the nephew was all right!)

  • Politrix June 25, 2015, 2:34 pm

    OP, I’m so glad your nephew is safe! And I agree — kudos to the lifeguard for staying calm and focussed enough to execute a rescue, and then making sure the creep deleted his photos and was barred from the pool.
    I’m reminded of the movie “Nightcrawler,” where a more-than-a-little unbalanced individual realized he could make money visiting crime scenes, filming them and then selling the footage to the local news station. It got to the point where he purchased a radio scanner so he could listen in on the 911 calls. I wouldn’t put it past the jerk that filmed your nephew of having a similar agenda — I wonder if in those cases you can have someone brought up on charges of voyeurism…

  • MyWorld June 25, 2015, 3:18 pm

    That was terribly rude of the man and I was glad the lifeguard handled the situation the way they did.

    It always amazes me what some people will take pictures of AND POST. Just last week on Facebook someone posted a picture of their children posing by their DEAD grandmother….saying that they knew Grandma was in a happier place now…

  • Weaver June 25, 2015, 3:26 pm

    That’s really appalling. If I had any control over that pool, I’d make sure that man was banned for life. I’m glad that the lifeguard was able to make him delete his pictures with relatively little fuss. What in the wigging world is wrong with people?

    As far as your part in this story goes, OP, you seem at some pains to point out that you were you being a responsible guardian at the time, and I can very well understand why, but I don’t think you have anything to reproach yourself for at all. It sounds as if the lifeguard on duty was extremely vigilant, sensible, and well-trained. Nothing you did or didn’t do would have made the slightest difference to the situation, as far as I can tell. The only culprit in this whole affair is the inhuman fool who…who…who what? I can’t even begin to fathom this idiot’s logic or feelings.

    As a side note, I suspect that had it been a pair of paramedics or lifeguards working on your nephew, one of them might well have told the idiot in no uncertain terms to get out of way. Whatever the circumstances, though, you have nothing to reproach yourself for, OP. It must have been a terrifying experience, and I’m very glad that your nephew is alright.

  • JWH June 25, 2015, 3:30 pm

    If somebody (other than a professional news photographer) wanted to photograph my kids’ misery like that, I’d probably do something rather rude.

    • Mustard June 25, 2015, 3:52 pm

      Just why would a professional news photographer taking pictures of your kids’ misery be any better than an amateur? I’d be pretty mad at anyone with a camera.

      • Kheldarson June 26, 2015, 7:20 am

        A professional won’t intrude and will ask permission to use photos. An amateur won’t.

      • JWH June 26, 2015, 8:43 am

        If it’s a professional news photographer, he’s just doing his job. If, for example, the scenario is police rescuing my kid from a river, the photog is there to document the news event.

        Plus, I used to be in the media. I tend to give media folks a little more leeway.

    • AS June 26, 2015, 5:04 pm

      Some news photographers are a bit too intrusive for my liking. I mean, it is a good thing to cover some tragedy. But preferably don’t get into the way of rescue. Also, if I am the one on whom a tragedy has fallen, I don’t exactly want to be photographed. Neither do I want the world to see my pain if I am a panicked relative or a friend of an injured. I am not sure what the rules say about asking for permission of the person while being photographed for press – but I hope that they do require a formal permission.

  • nannerdoman June 25, 2015, 3:40 pm

    I can’t begin to fathom what this idiot was thinking. The only appropriate response in this type of situation is to get out of the way and let rescue personnel do their job. Agree with the previous poster who described this as much worse than an etiquette blunder–it was a display of almost inhuman insensitivity.

  • Carol June 25, 2015, 3:41 pm

    A number of the local TV stations in my area encourage viewers to send in pictures/video for their news broadcasts. For example, someone might take a picture of a building fire and send it in. I wonder if that contributes to people taking pictures. “Ooooh, my pictures might be on the evening news…. let me keep on filming!”

  • Rebecca June 25, 2015, 4:01 pm

    SERIOUSLY???? A man inserted himself into the scene amongst and unconscious kid and panicking family members, and TOOK PICTURES?????? Wow. Just wow. I have no other words.

  • lkb June 25, 2015, 4:58 pm

    Glad the boy is all right and of course I agree with the comments here. Sadly, it’s nothing new. Years before social media was a thing, I was at a tourist attraction that had a petting zoo. The animal handlers had brought one or two of the rarer animals (sorry, don’t recall exactly what animals they were), for visitors to see. One of the visitors was a child in a wheelchair and one of the animals approached him/her before starting to wander away on its own. One of the other visitors said, “Hey! Can you bring it back to the boy in the wheelchair?” (as if the boy were a prop) so he could take a picture. (It was very clear the boy and the visitor were strangers to each other.) What a clod.

  • JO June 25, 2015, 5:06 pm

    Social media has made people so immune to reality and emotion. It’s a terribly sad fact that whipping out a phone or camera becomes a first instinct. People have become more concerned with “going viral” than just being decent humans.

  • K June 25, 2015, 5:07 pm

    Taking pictures of disasters and near disasters = appalling. Taking pictures of minors you don’t know and don’t have a clear reason to photograph = extremely creepy. Combine the two, and the man’s behavior was just plain heinous. So glad this story had a good ending.

  • AIP June 25, 2015, 5:55 pm

    It’s become more commonplace now because of the proliferation of fairly decent phone cameras and not needing to pay to see your pics, but it’s sadly not a new phenomenon. Often the worst offenders are those old enough to know better.

    Over 10 years ago (still very much in the film era) I was in Malta visiting the large St. Paul’s Basilica in Mdina; it was a nice winters afternoon with beautiful warm Mediterranian light reflecting off the golden sandstone, so perfect for nice images, especially with the vintage cars Malta was famous for back then.

    A funeral cortège arrived and it looked like for all the world a scene from The Godfather; it was incredibly photogenic. But I put my bloody camera down and had some respect. Other tourists took some snaps, but there was another middle aged pillock with an SLR who fancied himself some sort of photojournalist. He would have all but photographed up their nostrils, only Maltese men are quite forbidding looking especially when you’re annoying them!
    (I’m no saint, I did photograph the hearse during the funeral service, but at least there were no mourners in sight!)

    • Skaramouche June 26, 2015, 7:46 am

      Good for you for showing restraint…it’s so rare these days!
      I. don’t. understand. people. Apparently their photos are more important than being decent or obeying posted signs. I was in France recently and I can’t tell you the number of times I saw tourists taking photos under or beside a sign specifically asking them NOT to take photos. My finger itched because the subjects (insides of cathedrals, etc.) were beautiful but I refuse to be part of the brainless masses.
      Another slightly related example is that of the badlands half an hour from where I live. There is clearly a sign that asks people NOT to cross a certain line because well, if everyone does, the natural formation will be ruined. Erosion does enough already without people helping. Did anyone care? Of course not. I hear they are to be closed soon.
      I miss the days when a person’s word meant something and people had a well defined sense of honour.

      • AIP June 26, 2015, 4:11 pm

        Oh I hear you. Never has a greater collection of idiocy in human form been seen than in the Louvre. I took loads there but without my flash because once an art history student, always an art history student. 😉
        Ok, an accidental flash happens to us all, but those on compact cameras are bright enough to illuminate galaxies! And what is with shooting straight into mirrors (with cameras and glass more expensive than mine)? I would up getting so irritated that anyone who I clocked not turning off their flash and who then asked me to take a photo for them got a “no”.

  • Heather June 25, 2015, 6:20 pm

    I can understand a lot of strange behavior when something like this happens: some people might freeze up; some might be in shock and sort of “negate” what’s happening because it’s hard to comprehend that it’s actually happening. But what impulse compels you to whip out your phone? I would think most people would be in the moment… reacting in various ways… some practical and helpful and some not, but whose immediate reaction is to take a photo?

  • Lady Anne June 25, 2015, 6:39 pm

    We had a fatal accident in front of our house several years ago. The first thing we did was call 911, and then my husband tried to see if there was anything he could do that would be useful. There wasn’t, but he stayed and spoke soothingly to the driver of the car until the EMTs arrived. (The passenger was killed, and the driver severely injured.) Then he took a few pictures – from a distance – and we went back into the house and kept out of the way.

    Later that morning, one of the TV stations sent a man out to interview my husband, and he gave him the pictures – one of each of the vehicles and one of the EMTs working – but there was no “blood and guts” and nobody could be identified. The TV station made the pictures available to the police, who were grateful for the entire way we handled the situation.

    Make yourself useful, then make yourself scarce.

    • MamaToreen June 26, 2015, 8:33 am

      My husband would have taken puctires after the fact for the insurance companies, but he’s a detective and knows how fast evidence can be contaminated

      • UKHelen June 28, 2015, 12:24 pm

        This is something that’s been bothering me. A while ago, my husband and I came across a car on its roof. The occupants were out (some were injured), people were helping and calling an ambulance. Another driver arrived and helped, as did my husband. Me? I don’t have any medical knowledge, so I walked back round the corner of the fast, open road and flagged down oncoming cars, to slow them down/stop them/divert them so that they didn’t go, fast and unsighted, round the corner into the accident scene and cause an even bigger disaster. I remember just wanting to be useful; it was only afterwards that I realised what might’ve happened if I hadn’t done what I did. (The next day I went out and bought a hi-vis jacket!)

        But here’s the thing: I knew I had a camera in my handbag, and I knew if I took pictures they would probably be the only ones from the accident, so I could send them to the local paper and they would print them. Yes, this actually went through my head, and I wondered if I should do it – after all, that’s what people seem to do these days. But I tried to imagine taking out a camera and doing it, and I imagined that the uninjured occupants of the car would be angry at me. It just didn’t seem right, and so I didn’t use my camera. And sure enough, no pictures of the accident emerged in the local or national press. I’ve been wondering if I did the right thing or if times have moved on and I was stupid not to take the pictures. I’m relieved to find that I did the right thing.

  • JJ June 25, 2015, 8:52 pm

    I want to be surprised at people’s lack of tact but I am used to some of the shocking events people will stand back and take photos of instead of helping or giving room to emergency workers. The worst was a lady who went into labour and gave birth in the street in a big city in America. And only one or two people (one of whom became a good friend since then) stopped to actually help, give their jacket to the baby and talk to the mother. The rest of them not even kidding stood around taking pictures of this cold, scared woman who just gave birth on a sidewalk in New York. The lady who did help her and became her friend later did yell at a few to knock it off and call for help. And they didn’t they just kept snapping. Because that is what a traumatized woman who just gave birth needs strangers taking photo’s of her while she is bleeding hold, holding a newborn who needs medical attention and it’s the middle of a cold fall season. Good lord. I don’t condone violent behaviour but in that case I think people should be able to smack cell phones out of people’s hands and confiscate them till you can handle it like a mature, helpful adult and not a gawking, rude kid who just got their first phone camera.

  • FunkyMunky June 25, 2015, 10:52 pm

    Recently a man fell (or jumped, it wasn’t reported, so either is possible) several levels through a shopping complex in my city. There are dozens of people who took photos of this man as he lay dying. I doubt there was any intent to help, just their own morbid curiosity and lack of empathy for the people involved and their family.

  • NostalgicGal June 25, 2015, 11:25 pm

    BEING IN THE WAY and filming and continuing despite several telling them to STOP is horrid. Major kudos to the lifeguard to make the pictures go away.

    People are totally strange that way.

    I’ve nearly drowned a few times and it is indeed you can be in trouble in just a blink. At least nobody took pictures (back before digital cameras days). I don’t swim much anymore so… as for that fellow and if it’d been my kid, I might not have been as nice (like some others have said).

  • Maggie June 25, 2015, 11:31 pm

    This is how things are these days. The lines between life, death, news and entertainment have merged. Now everything is for our entertainment. Someone dies in the street. Entertainment. Someones’ worse day in their life. Entertainment. We have become a society (societies as it’s global) of gawkers who care little our fellow human beings. our life – our entertainment. But remember this is what the general public wants. Look at TV programmes, look at the ones that are most popular – they involve someone else’s life. It is the nasty side of human beings.

    • Maggie June 25, 2015, 11:31 pm

      Typo above.

      “Your life – our entertainment.”

  • NostalgicGal June 26, 2015, 12:03 am

    I believe in the 1970’s, (read in magazine), a photographer recounted one scenario. A grandfather had accidentally backed over his two year old granddaughter. The police had been there, and he was sent to take some pictures for the paper. The coroner was doing his bit, and the child had been laid on the family kitchen table, covered, and the man with full beard and white hair, had sat down there, with an arm at each end of her, palms up slightly; grieving and tears full flowing. The light was coming in the window and lighting him up… the fellow raised his camera, he knew it would be a Pulitzer winner. Then he said, he put the camera down and walked away quietly, and let the man have his moment. He did not take the picture. I wish there were more now, that could and would show that kind of restraint. (I think the winning Pulitzer that year was someone leaping to their death from a burning building, in fall, a few floors from the ground–which I’m not sure should have been taken).

    • Devin June 26, 2015, 9:34 am

      I wonder how people here (and I know this a global forum) feel about 9/11 pictures? I know the picture of the the man falling down the side of the building will forever be etched in my mind and remind me of the terrible events that happened. To me that picture humanizes the whole tragedy and serves as a reminder that each individual trapped in those towers were going through their own struggles and realization of their inevitable deaths. Was the photographer wrong for capturing that man’s death?

    • AS June 26, 2015, 5:19 pm

      That’s beautiful restrain, NostalgiaGal. I can’t even imagine what should have been going through the grandfather’s mind at that time. My God!

      Talking of falling from burning buildings – my take is that that is a photograph that encompasses a mass feeling, not a single person. They are one amongst many (thousands in case of the 9/11 bombings) of people going through the situation. As long as the photographer(s) didn’t hamper the rescue efforts, it isn’t bad to give a human angle to disasters. Whereas, incase of the grandfather backing on to his daughter, it is a very private moment for the grandfather, and he’d have been singled out in the photograph.

  • Lex June 26, 2015, 2:14 am

    There are no circumstances in which it is appropriate to take photographs of people who are in the midst of a crisis or emergency without their consent. It is just a shame that laws cannot be enacted to protect people from this sort of invasion of privacy.

  • Marozia June 26, 2015, 5:03 am

    This is what social media has done to people.

  • Allie June 26, 2015, 6:32 am

    I used to be a lifeguard, and, yeah, don’t distract or interfere with the lifeguard’s duties.

    One random PSA is that, yes, drowning usually is very quiet. The movie version of drowning is inaccurate. If you’re going to be out swimming this summer, especially with kids or someone who isn’t a swimmer, I’d recommend checking out these videos to see what drowning actually looks like. Ironically, the video here was taken of a lifeguard on duty, but can be used to help other people. http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/family/2013/06/rescuing_drowning_children_how_to_know_when_someone_is_in_trouble_in_the.html

  • Stephbwfern June 26, 2015, 7:06 am

    That is so creepy! I can’t even imagine the motivation behind the man’s actions!
    I’m so glad the child recovered fully.
    I have a story about the flip side of this.
    I was supporting a friend as she birthed her baby. It was a long and complicated birth, and when the baby was finally born, he did not begin the breath and was non-responsive. He was whisked across the room to the infant bed and resuscitation commenced.
    My friend on the other side of the room quickly begged me to take the camera and get some photos of him, so she could actually have some glimpse of him. I stood about two metres away (in a corner and out of anyone’s way) and started to take some photos when a couple of nurses immediately started loudly saying “No! No photos! Get the camera out of here!” And sent me back to my friend. i was so shocked by being spoke to so harshly (and, obviously there was an awful lot going on) that I never asked why.
    Long story short, the baby made a full recovery.
    Now, I wasn’t in anyone’s way, I wasn’t distracting people with a flash, no nurses/doctors faces were facing me and I know there are no legal issues as the mother had given her consent for the photos, so I cannot understand what the problem was. Had things gone badly, those photos could have been the only ones my friend ever had of her live baby boy – she really wanted to have a few photos of her baby’s first moments on this earth.
    Are we getting so paranoid, these days, about photo’s being taken of us that we react irrationally?

  • FB June 26, 2015, 7:55 am

    One happy(ish) story.
    There was a four lorry accident in the UK in May that left incredibly mangled vehicles but luckily the drivers had only minor injuries. As is the way with these things, rubber neckers going the other way slowed down, took photos and filmed the scene. The police have traced the worst ones and are prosecuting them for using mobile while driving, which is illegal here, and possibly careless driving too.

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3100942/Twenty-drivers-points-100-fine-taking-pictures-four-lorry-pile-ll-know-letters-land-doormats.html

  • Squashedfrog June 26, 2015, 9:18 am

    Police in Britain have taken to naming and shaming rubber neckers who slowed their cars down and actually were seen taking photos of a fatal car accident on the side of the road. I applaud the police for doing this. Story here:

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2189200/Police-shame-80-ghouls-slowed-pictures-wreckage-motorway-smash-left-woman-21-fighting-life.html

    • Squashedfrog June 26, 2015, 9:19 am

      Just to add she was fighting for life, not fatale

  • Jessica June 26, 2015, 10:22 am

    When I was a volunteer firefighter I used to get called to a lot of bad car accidents. One was involving two elderly people with the woman being unresponsive. The male driver had gone straight ahead at an intersection instead of turning left or right, he went so fast the car hit the little safety island in the middle and became airborne, jumped the barriers of the overpass and landed dead flat onto the grass below. I would have been a 10 foot drop. I have no idea how he missed cars travelling along the top bypass. Anyway one of those cars travelling past actually slowed down to a crawl (on the 100kmph road) and started filming the scene. My vice captain saw them and was frantically waving at the to keep going as they were in a very dangerous position, cars going the speed limit had to swerve to miss them. This was a straight road with nowhere safe for them to go, the barrier was only a root from the road. They still inched along filming, their kids with their heads stuck out the window having a look. Honestly I was so terrified we would be called to a fatal up top when a massive truck or even car slammed into the back of them killing those kids. My vice captain was screaming at the to move, I felt so sick… but they took no notice, the camera was not put away until the lady was safely in the ambulance.

    Another time there was an overturned car that hit an electricity pole. The pole was sparking as it was raining so I had to take a road sign and top traffic from flying around the bend, this meant I was out of sight of the rest of the crew with only a radio to contact them but there was no other way, crews were during the day and it was too unsafe to risk cars flying around the corner into the scene. You could just see the top of the pole on fire from where I was… which means the oncoming cars could see it above my head. They were not watching me they were watching the fire… and FILMING. If the passenger was filming and the driver had his eye on the fire they didnt see me with my red stop sign, flashing light and bright orange uniform. I had quite a few dear death experiences that day.

    One fellow firefighter at another scene had his foot run over by a someone filming a crash as they drove by, thankfully very slowly. My captain was almost hit once. She was holding a stop sign and a car slowed down to look but was so focused he didnt see the stop sign, or her and he got close enough she actually had to slam the stop sign down on the bonnet of the car to get his attention so he didnt kill her.

    I have only ever once came even close to being killed by fire, its the sticky beaks that are the real danger.

  • Yarnspinner June 26, 2015, 10:33 am

    @Nostalgic Gal: I was just thinking of that same story! I read it in The Reader’s Digest. They reprinted it not too long along (within the last few years) as commentary on current society’s mad rush to invade people’s privacy. Wish there were some way to teach caring, respect and sympathy these days. We just seem to be losing our grip on it.

    • NostalgicGal June 27, 2015, 1:52 pm

      Yes, it was originally printed early 70’s I believe. The year as I recall when I looked up Pulitzer Prize winning photos for that year, I remember year before and year of, the winners were people falling to their death jumping from buildings, and a floor or two from impact. Made me think a lot less of Pulitzer photography.

  • Jessica June 26, 2015, 10:33 am

    I have to say though, the worst was not the danger to the firefighters but was tragic and before i joined the service. There was a couple of young guys street racing, one car full of young men hit a tree in a residential street. It was bad, really bad. The victims were not in one piece literally although I wont go into anymore detail. I have only been to one as gory and it was absolutely terrible. Some bright sparks deced to take photos and put them on fb where they were shared like mad and as in usual with a small town they reached the families… who had no idea yet. The police were not even at the scene yet and the firefighters had to hold back screaming mothers and fathers and siblings. The things they saw probably ruined them mentally for life. Because some nosey person wanted to be the first to spread the news.

    That incident was actually the first ever call out for a few recruit firefighters who after that night quit the service and never came back it was so traumatic. The thing that shocked my vice captain most was that he had to stop two very young children about 9 or 10 walking up to the scene, he told them to go home and asked why they were there. You know what they said? ‘Mum sent us down the street to find out what was going on’ The captain took them home and tore the parents a new one apparently.

    (this was 11pm or so mind you) he asked

  • Jessica June 26, 2015, 10:36 am

    Sorry for the weird structure and missing letters in my comments. MY keyboard is having a bad day

  • kingsrings June 26, 2015, 11:30 am

    A few months ago an acquaintance of mine who is a photographer posted photos on his Facebook profile of a death scene he came across. A man and his wife were out in public and the man had a heart attack. Paramedics were called and tried to save him, but sadly he passed away. The photographer guy took photos of this and posted them on his Facebook as a lesson in how short life is or something like that. While he didn’t take any actual photos of the guy dying or dead, I thought this was still very tacky to impose on a moment of agony and grief like that. And I told him so, but in a respectful way, because I knew he meant well. He still unfriended me, though.

  • iwadasn June 26, 2015, 6:03 pm

    Notwithstanding the fact that it’s incredibly rude, why would he WANT pictures of a random unconscious kid? Is he going to show it to all his friends and family?

  • Noodle June 27, 2015, 12:26 am

    I don’t advocate violence of any kind but that man is incredibly lucky someone didn’t take his camera/phone from him, toss it in the pool, and/or deck him. Good for the lifeguard for deleting his photos and asking him to leave.

    He probably doesn’t even realize that what he did was tacky to say the least.

  • Anonymouse June 27, 2015, 8:07 pm

    It’s stories like this that make me terrified to take my (very active) nephews swimming… Things can go so wrong so fast, and I’d never forgive myself if that happened to them. Thank goodness your nephew was alright in the end. 🙂

  • happycat1984 June 28, 2015, 10:47 am

    A few years ago there was a terrible car accident near my hometown. It was a head on collision, killing the 2 teenage drivers Sadly, the father of one of the teenagers was only 2 cars behind and came across the accident shortly after it happened. For some reason, the next day the local newspaper decided to publish on the front page a photo of the poor father, taken just after the accident, sitting on the side of the road, head in hands, blood on his shirt, a clearly broken man. The photo was taken at the absolute worst moment of this man’s life, I don’t know why it was turned into a headline. This same paper also published photos of the cars, complete with massive blood stains on the airbags and trails of blood down the side of the doors. It’s ghoulish and unnecessary!

    • kingsrings June 29, 2015, 12:14 pm

      I saw something similar on the news eight years ago. A horrific quadruple fatal accident happened in town, and three of the victims, two sisters and a baby, were from the same family. The news filmed and aired footage of the mother arriving at the accident scene (she’d been driving around looking for them when they didn’t show up somewhere and happened upon the accident scene, recognizing their car) and discovering it was the family car and that they’d been killed. I was shocked and horrified that the news would broadcast this woman’s worst moment ever to everyone, but then I wondered later whether she’d given permission to them to do so as this was a drunk driving crash. Perhaps she was hoping to spread awareness and prevent others from making the same error by showing them the consequences.

  • Bottlecaps June 28, 2015, 3:26 pm

    This reminds me of a girl I know. She’s an avid social media user, and is always posting pictures of local news and weather. You know, your typical “I posted it first!” user.

    For a while, she had a very bad habit of listening to the police scanner in our area, finding out where car wrecks were, and then going and taking photos of the scene with her phone and uploading the photos to Facebook. Sometimes these photos were pretty graphic. Many people had a problem with it, and tried to explain why she shouldn’t do that, but it just didn’t sink in. This went on for about a year or so. Anytime there was an accident in our area, you could count on Ms. I-Posted-It-First to have pictures up of the scene within an hour. Usually the pictures were from a distance, but she was getting more and more intrusive it seemed with each scene. Finally our local first responders were finally able to put a stop to it. How? Well, they caught her at the scene of a very bad accident that involved a parent and a very, very young child (it sadly killed them both), inserting herself into the situation, trying to take pictures of the child’s body. One of our local firemen grabbed her phone, deleted the pictures, and told her, in less than etiquette-approved terms, to get out of there and if she was caught at an accident scene again, her phone was going over the hill and she was going to jail for hindering first responders. This wasn’t just an etiquette breach, it displayed a total lack of respect for those involved in the accident and for their loved ones, and the first responders at that particular accident made sure she knew it. Suffice to say, I never saw car accident photos taken by her pop up on my news feed again. Thankfully, these days she tends to stick to storms and local news that doesn’t involve injuries or fatalities.

  • Kat June 28, 2015, 7:20 pm

    People are so drawn to look at terrible things, it’s awful. When I was in a bad car accident, people were coming out of their houses and walking across cornfields to come stand on the edge of the highway and gawk. I saw them as the firefighter held my head still while we waited for the ambulance. I felt angry, like I should be sarcastically saying “sorry for not being dead!” But I didn’t see anyone other than the police taking photos (for accident reconstruction). I remember that well and try never to gawk when something bad happens.