Zoe Snoeks died while taking a selfie at the top of a cliff in the Belgium province of Luxembourg. Authorities say that the woman slipped off the edge and fell nearly 100 feet. Her body was later discovered in the Ourthe River.
According to her husband, Joeri Janssen, he had only turned his back for a second and when he looked back his wife was gone. The couple loved to take photos together and they had woken up early to capture the breathtaking view from the Herou, which is a 4,600 feet upward cliff near the town of Nadrin.
“We only left on Sunday in our campervan. Since the pandemic, it was our little thing to drive across Europe in our van and take beautiful photos, he said.”
The couple was planning on returning home the day Snoeks died. They lived in the province of Limburg and had been married since 2012. The pair had been childhood sweethearts.
Rescue teams searched the river for Snoeks’ body. Teams included police, fire, scuba divers and a medical helicopter. Authorities were able to find her body close to where she fell.
According to Janssen, he knew his wife was gone before they found her body. He was the one who called emergency services at a nearby hotel. The area around the cliff had no cell service and he had to go to the Le Belvedere Hotel to receive help.
“I called her, even though I knew it was hopeless. The chasm was several tens of meters deep. The rescue team could not find Zoe immediately, they said in French. Then they told me that unfortunately Zoe was dead, also in French, but I immediately understood what they meant,” said Janssen.
According to her husband, he didn’t hear any screaming when his wife plummeted off the cliff. After she fell, he looked at her phone and discovered that she had taken a selfie moments before she fell. The river where they found her body is directly behind her.
Taking selfies in dangerous places has become a trend in recent years, and it seems like no matter the risk, people will do anything to snap that perfect Instagram picture.
A study done by the Journal of Family Medicine and Primary Care said that between 2011 and 2017, 259 people died while trying to take a selfie in a dangerous place. The study called for certain dangerous areas, like volcanos and cliffs, to become “No Selfie Zones.”
“I would say people need to be educated and made aware of selfie deaths as a public health problem,” said Agam Bansal, one of the researchers. “The government and officials should take strict preventive actions as declaring certain spots as risky areas and beyond which taking selfies should be prohibited.”
Some places include cliffs, on top of skyscrapers or hanging off the side of a bridge. Train selfies, where a person snaps a picture while dangling off a moving train, became so popular in India and Sri Lanka that the government had to ban them.
Russia, in particular, has seen an increase in dangerous selfies and the injuries or deaths that come with them. The Russian Ministry has even launched a safe selfie campaign in the hopes that it will deter citizens from risking their life for a picture.
Many people who aim to take dangerous Instagram photos have started climbing buildings to get the perfect shot. They consider themselves urban explorers and their Instagram feed is filled with photos of them on the tops of skyscrapers and other buildings.
In 2017, urban explorer Wu Yongning died after he fell off a 62-story building in China. The 28-year-old’s social media feed was filled with dangerous Instagram pictures. Fans of his also followed him for his videos that showed the risks he took for his dangerous photography. He rarely used safety equipment.
It is not yet clear if authorities will continue to investigate Zoe Snoeks’ death.