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Selfie-taking American rescued after falling into Vesuvius crater

An American tourist fell into Mount Vesuvius over the weekend while trying to take a selfie, according to Italian officials. (Stefan Rousseau/AP)

An American tourist in Italy survived a fall into the crater of Mount Vesuvius after he tried to reach for his phone to take a selfie, according to Italian police and local officials.

A 23-year-old man from Baltimore was hiking on the famed volcano with his family Saturday when they accessed the top of Vesuvius through a forbidden trail, Naples police told local media. When the family reached the top of the volcano, known for destroying the Roman city of Pompeii, the man, identified by NBC News as Philip Carroll, reached for his phone to commemorate being atop the 4,000-foot-high volcano.

But when the man’s phone fell into the crater about 3 p.m., the situation worsened, Paolo Cappelli, president of the Presidio Permanente Vesuvio, a base at the top of Vesuvius where guides operate, told NBC. Instead of recovering the phone and snapping the perfect photo for Instagram, the man slipped and dropped a few feet into the crater.

“This morning a tourist for reasons still to be determined … together with his family they ventured on a forbidden path, arrived on the edge of the crater and fell into the mouth of #Vesuvius,” wrote Gennaro Lametta, a government tourism official, on Facebook.

Cappelli told Il Mattino, a Naples newspaper, that a team of volcano guides on the other side of the rim used binoculars to realize that the man “had slipped inside the crater and was in serious trouble,” noting that the American tourist was stuck.

“Four volcanological guides were set in motion instantly and, arriving on-site, one of them was lowered with a rope for about 15 meters to allow them to secure the unwary tourist,” Cappelli said, according to a Google translation. He noted that Carroll could have plunged 300 meters, or nearly 1,000 feet, into the crater.

A photo Lametta posted to social media shows the man with bruises on his legs, arms and back, as well as bloody scrapes on his elbows. Lametta wrote that the man was unconscious when the guides recovered him. Police told CNN that the man was treated in an ambulance farther down the mountain but refused to go to a hospital.

Cappelli told local media that Carroll was taken into custody by the local police. It’s unclear what charges he may face.

Attempts to reach Carroll and his family Tuesday were unsuccessful.

Nearly two millennia after a deadly eruption in A.D. 79 left the cities of Pompeii, Oplontis and Stabiae blanketed in ash, Mount Vesuvius remains one of the most popular tourist attractions in the country. While Vesuvius technically remains an active volcano, the last eruption was in 1944, and the volcano is in a state of repose, according to Vesuvius National Park’s website. The highest point of the volcano is about 4,190 feet. Vesuvius’s crater is nearly 1,000 feet deep, with a diameter of about 1,500 feet.

The Baltimore man survived, but some others who have tried taking photos of themselves in picturesque but dangerous locations haven’t been so lucky. A 2018 study by researchers associated with the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, a group of public medical colleges based in New Delhi, found that more than 250 people worldwide had died while taking selfies over a six-year period. Of the 259 deaths reported between October 2011 and November 2017, researchers found the leading cause to be drowning, followed by incidents involving transportation — for example, taking a selfie in front of an oncoming train — and falling from heights. Other causes of selfie-related deaths include animal attacks, firearm discharges and electrocutions.

“The selfie deaths have become a major public health problem,” Agam Bansal, the study’s lead author, told The Washington Post at the time.

More than 250 people worldwide have died taking selfies, study finds

A study published last year in the Journal of Travel Medicine estimated that 379 people had died while taking selfies from January 2008 to July 2021.

There are more recent examples of deaths linked to selfies. Richard Jacobson, a 21-year-old hiker in Arizona, fell hundreds of feet to his death in January after he walked toward the edge of a cliff to take a selfie in the Superstition Mountains east of Phoenix. Police told local media that an investigation into Jacobson’s death showed no signs of drug use or foul play, and concluded that the death was “just a very tragic accident.”

Cappelli and Lametta praised the volcano guides for quickly recognizing that the American tourist was in danger of plummeting farther into Vesuvius’s crater.

“Having spoken directly with the rescuers, I can safely say that last Saturday on Vesuvius they saved a human life,” Cappelli told Vesuvio Live, according to a translation.

Allyson Chiu contributed to this report.