Tourist Falls into Mt. Vesuvius Trying to Retrieve His Phone

This weekend, a man fell into a volcano while trying to recover his phone.

On July 10, the 23-year-old American tourist was hiking on a closed trail on Italy’s Mount Vesuvius when the incident occurred. According to Italian media outlets, the phone slipped from his grasp while he attempted to take a selfie at the summit and fell into the caldera.

It wouldn’t be long before the man would follow. He survived a several-metre fall with scrapes and bruises but required a rescue. According to The Guardian, local guides rappelled into the crater to retrieve him.

A mountain rescue helicopter team also aided in the operation. First responders treated the man for minor scrapes and bruises, but he refused an ambulance ride, per local authorities.

To make his plight and embarrassment worse, he could now face charges for hiking on a closed trail.

According to the Italian carabinieri, obvious trail closure and warning signs obstructed the path. But the man ignored them and headed up the volcano, along with three relatives and two British tourists.

As of now, it remains unclear whether any of the hikers will face penalties from the state. But a prosecutor will decide whether to proceed with a formal charge for invasion of public territory.

man falls into mount vesuvius

Mt. Vesuvius and Capri island from a hill in nearby Maddaloni. Photo: Kris de Curtis via Wiki Commons


A dangerous spot for a selfie

Mt. Vesuvius reaches a height of 1,277m, and its 450m wide crater reaches a depth of 300m. The popular tourist destination is the only active volcano on the European mainland. It last erupted in 1944 and has erupted over 50 times — most famously in 79 AD, when it buried and petrified the city of Pompeii and everyone in it.

Craters of active volcanoes are dangerous places to hike. Their unstable surfaces can and often have collapsed under hikers’ feet without warning. In 2019, a 32-year-old man sustained severe injuries after he fell 21m in a collapse at Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano.

This January, a 75-year-old Hawaiian man died after falling 31m into the same crater. And a similar tragedy occurred in 2017 at Italy’s Solfatara Crater, not far from Vesuvius, when an 11-year-old boy fell into boiling mud. His parents tried to save him, but all three died.

Snapping a selfie at a caldera, while attractive for reasons obvious to any influencer, introduces another well-documented but flabbergasting hazard: distracted hiking. In 2019, a woman in Los Angeles fell from a 30m cliff after her phone grabbed her attention. She spent 13 hours below before rescuers extracted her.

On Christmas in 2015, a man fell 60 feet to his death in San Diego’s Sunset Cliffs for the same reason. And in January, a hiker in Arizona plummeted 700 feet to his death while trying to shoot a photo.

Sam Anderson

Sam Anderson takes any writing assignments he can talk his way into while intermittently traveling the American West and Mexico in search of margaritas — er, adventure. He parlayed a decade of roving trade work into a life of fair-weather rock climbing and truck dwelling before (to his parents’ evident relief) finding a way to put his BA in English to use. Sam loves animals, sleeping outdoors, campfire refreshments and a good story.