On Monday January 16 a thrill-seeking skateboarding game ended in tragedy in the NSW town of Wagga. 17-year-old high school student, Lachy Burgess was participating in a high risk game called ‘skitching’ when the accident occurred. Skitching involves a skateboarder being towed behind a fast-moving car. According to police, Burgess fell from his skateboard and suffered severe head injuries when he struck the road. He died at the scene. Greg Miller, principal of Mater Dei Catholic College where Lachy was due to complete his HSC this year, said “this is a very, very tragic accident which has deeply affected our community”.
The driver of the vehicle, a 17-year-old friend of Burgess has been charged with manslaughter and dangerous driving occasioning death. He will face Wagga Wagga local court on February 29.
Reports have indicated that Lachlan Burgess had a reputation for being a ‘dare devil’ and often posted videos of his skateboarding exploits online. The widespread use of social media and broadcasting sites such as YouTube, and their ability to transform ordinary individuals into overnight media sensations, is a phenomenon that may be driving dangerous behaviour.
As we saw in 2011 with ‘planking’, risk taking for the purpose of posting footage online has become a popular activity. In this current culture where online presence is a powerful social resource, the ease of accessibility for young people of finding this kind of footage may result in tacit encouragement of recklessness as a means of drawing attention to their own online profiles.
The tragic loss of Lachy Burgess’ life, however, shows that daring activities of this nature are often not worth the risk. As the desire for high intensity entertainment and shock value increases society’s risk appetite – especially among the young – it is important that young people are educated in managing risks to their personal safety. It is hoped that this incident will deter people from engaging in behaviour like skitching where margins for error are small, and consequences can be devastating.