When Firefighters Saw Beachgoers Staring At Their Phones, They Knew They Had To Intervene

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It’s the middle of summer in Sweden, and you’re enjoying a sunny day at the beach. Those around you are topping up their tans or frolicking in the water. Yet your eyes are glued to your cell phone. You’re so absorbed in the device, in fact, that you barely notice when a firefighter appears out of nowhere and snatches it from your grasp. This is confusing at first. It’s not a crime to play with your phone on the beach, after all. But what the man tells you next teaches you a very important lesson.

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This very situation occurred in real life in July 2018. The firefighters involved were from the Södra Älvsborg Rescue Service Association. And, armed with a camera, members of this Swedish aid-giving organization visited one of the beaches in their homeland. It was then that two firefighters took center stage and made their next moves.

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In particular, the firefighters targeted a few different beachgoers who were all staring at their phones. And, as we suggested earlier, the men subsequently grabbed the mobile devices easily out of each person’s hands. They weren’t doing this out of spite, however. On the contrary, the firefighters had a very important point to prove.

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The events – filmed and uploaded to YouTube by the Södra Älvsborg Rescue Service Association – quickly went viral, with users flocking to watch the clip. And the message behind the video translated across the globe. For you see, the Swedish organization had wanted to spread a specific warning to parents and guardians.

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This, of course, all links in with wider mobile phone usage in today’s society. It should be surprising to nobody that the hand-held devices are incredibly prevalent – yet the statistics can make for concerning reading. For instance, the Statista website compiled some eye-opening figures when studying the growth in cell phone users around the world.

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First of all, Statista discovered that about 6.8 billion people used mobile devices in 2019. The website then projected a major rise in users over the next four years, with the 2023 figure predicted to be 7.33 billion. So, in the simplest terms, the majority of the world’s population has access to mobile phones and devices.

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Yet while cell phones are seemingly everywhere now, you can’t use them all the time – as most of you should already know. To give an obvious example, drivers are prohibited from playing around with their hand-held devices behind the wheel. This measure was put in place to help prevent accidents on the road.

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In May 2019 the National Conference of State Legislatures – otherwise known as the NCSL – released some interesting information on this matter. According to the organization, governing bodies have banned drivers from using any kind of hand-held device in 20 American states, including the likes of California and Arizona. And that’s not all.

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A total of 48 states have also barred motorists from texting behind the wheel. Missouri is one of the two locations where this ban hasn’t taken full effect – but the state does have a similar law in place for novice drivers. As it turns out, people in Missouri are not allowed to send messages on the road if they’re younger than 21.

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Of course, people are also prohibited from using their cellular devices on board airplanes. In fact, if you don’t put your phone, tablet or laptop on “airplane mode,” you’re instructed to turn it off until you land. Yet the reasoning for that might not be as obvious as you’d think, as one pilot has explained.

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In the past, you see, it’s been claimed that cell phone use could put airplane passengers in danger because the devices might compromise an aircraft’s hardware. According to Patrick Smith, though, that shouldn’t be the case anymore. As a pilot himself, he delved into the topic while speaking with WalesOnline in June 2017.

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Smith told the website, “It’s unlikely that a mobile phone can cause problems in the cockpit, particularly on modern aircraft where components are, by design, carefully shielded. But it’s not impossible. I’d guess at least half of all phones, whether inadvertently or out of laziness, are left on during flight.”

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“That’s about a million phones a day in the United States,” Smith continued. “If indeed this was a recipe for disaster, I think we’d have more evidence by now.” The pilot then touched upon the biggest reason for the cell phone ban – and the explanation could surprise you.

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Smith revealed, “Ultimately, the phone thing is more of a social issue than a technological one. That is, do you really want to be sitting on an airplane listening to 200 people chatting away simultaneously? It’s possible that airlines are using the mere possibility of technical complications as a means of avoiding the social implications of allowing cellular conversations on planes.”

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That view was echoed by a pilot named Chris Foster, who made it clear that mobile devices shouldn’t be seen as a danger today. Yet he stated that the “myth” had previously held some weight due to past technology. To explain more, Foster had a chat with the Liverpool Echo in March 2017.

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Foster said, “In reality, [it’s] nothing to be concerned about. Aircraft control systems are so sophisticated now, that [cell phones] wouldn’t cause any interference. The regulations date back many years to when we didn’t even have things like iPads. The laws are starting to be relaxed, and I think we’ll see more changes over the next few years.”

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Back on the ground, cell phone users need to be aware of one more thing. If you’ve been around gas pumps in the United Kingdom, you might well have noticed a sign prohibiting the use of mobile devices while filling your vehicle. That could have left you a bit confused at first glance – but the explanation behind it is very serious.

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For you see, it’s believed that a cell phone could theoretically ignite the gas in the pumps, causing a fire. Although this might sound far-fetched, officials have taken a stern stance on the issue. The United Kingdom Petroleum Industry Association, better known as the UKPIA, went into a bit more detail via its website.

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“Mobile phones are not designed and certified for use in explosive atmospheres, which exist temporarily around the pump and nozzle during refueling,” the post read. “As well as around the fill and vent pipes during petrol deliveries [sic]. Whilst the risk of incendive sparking from mobile phones is low, they’re not intrinsically safe devices and shouldn’t be used in those hazardous areas.”

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Yet while these aforementioned warnings are mostly well known to the population, the Södra Älvsborg Rescue Service Association delivered a perhaps more obscure one in the summer of 2018. As we revealed earlier, the organization wanted to make an important point to parents on beaches and other public spaces. And to do that, the Swedish crew compiled a short video for its Facebook page.

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The video begins with a shot of an emergency services building, before cutting to two firefighters. The men are both standing with their backs turned to the camera, dressed in black shirts and shorts. Then the pair go on to equip their fanny packs, with the sun beaming down on them.

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At this point, the firemen appear to be moving in unison, as they also put on two pairs of sunglasses. So with everything in place, the duo start to walk down to the beach, applying sunscreen along the way. From here, the video cuts to a shot of a woman sitting on the sand with a cell phone.

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As the woman continues to look at her device, a group of children can be seen playing around in the water. The firefighters subsequently come into view and observe the situation, ahead of making their move. We then cut to another shot of the lady – when one of the men takes her phone.

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As this happens, the other firefighter leans down next to the woman and points to the kids in the distance. Although we can’t hear the conversation, the message seems fairly clear. Following this encounter, the pair move on to their next target, who’s sitting on an embankment with their mobile device.

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Once again, the two firefighters make their way over to the woman and lift her phone, before highlighting the children. At this stage, the video cuts back to the sandy area of the beach, where a couple of young women are focusing on their devices. As you can probably guess, the same thing proceeds to happen.

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Then we transition to a shot of one firefighter putting the stolen phones into his fanny pack, ahead of zipping it up. After this, the video comes to an end. If you’re still not sure what they were getting at, the Södra Älvsborg Rescue Service Association cleared things up in the accompanying Facebook post.

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The translated message read, “Let your mobile rest on the beach. Give bathing children your full attention this summer!” The emergency service’s warning appeared to resonate on social media, too, as a huge number of users came together to watch the firefighters in action. Indeed, the video quickly went viral.

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The Södra Älvsborg Rescue Service Association’s post earned about one million views on Facebook. The clip also racked up more than 2,400 likes and about 8,500 shares – and that’s not all. To round things off, the video generated over 250 comments from social media users.

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As for the message itself, it’s something that all parents and guardians need to keep in mind when they visit beaches and public spaces. Whether it’s a cell phone or something else that could cause a distraction, the individuals must put them aside to watch over their kids. If they don’t, of course, a tragedy could follow.

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One such incident occurred in August 2019 when a family went to Sylvan Beach in Harris County, Texas. As reported online by British newspaper The Sun, the four kids decided to get in the water, while their mom and dad stayed on the sand. But as the youngsters swam around in the sea, they unwittingly moved into a choppy area.

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When that happened, the quartet struggled to contend with the waves. This prompted an onlooker to go after them. In the end, though, the woman was only able to grab one of the children and pull them to safety. She unfortunately couldn’t reach the other three, who sadly drowned in the water.

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It was a horrible situation and seemed to bear out some troubling statistics on the matter. The year before, you see, a woman named Nicole Hughes had posted a message on the Scary Mommy website after her son’s tragic death. Her boy had drowned in a swimming pool, compelling her to share a few numbers regarding the dangers of water.

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Hughes wrote, “Do you know that drowning is the leading cause of death in children ages one to four, and the second leading cause in ages one to 14? Do you know that a child can drown in less than one minute? Unfortunately, I know these facts all too well. Drowning isn’t splashing and yelling. It is silent, and it takes SECONDS.”

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It’s perhaps unsurprising, then, that the Södra Älvsborg Rescue Service Association’s video continued to circulate online long after it had first been posted. In turn, more parents were being informed of the firefighters’ warning. A Facebook page named InciNotes also shared an article about the clip in June 2019, which itself generated a big response.

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Indeed, the post earned roughly 14,000 likes and 30,000 shares on Facebook. In addition to that, the message garnered more than 1,500 comments from social media users, who offered their opinions on the story. Yet, as it turned out, not everyone was convinced that the problems could be solved by just putting phones away.

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“Okay, good, but why was it okay for decades for parents to read books on the beach?” wrote one Facebook user in the comments section. “You’d see that all the time too. But the phones are the problem, right? How about going to the beach and also being part of your kids’ experience there, instead of using the waves as a babysitter.”

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Another user reiterated the the importance of keeping a watchful eye on your kids at the beach. They wrote, “Well done. You should never take your eyes off your children while in the water. That goes for all ages. A tragedy can happen in a split second. Let’s put our children first.”

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Those words were echoed by a fellow Facebook user in the comments section, who also made an additional point. In their mind, parents must ensure that their children are in sight at all times – especially when they’re out and about. But the person’s thoughts didn’t end there, as we’re about to discover.

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The social media user wrote, “I completely agree with this message! Very powerful stuff. The beach isn’t the only place either! Anywhere your children are where they need to be supervised and the parent or caregiver isn’t paying attention is a good place for a phone to be taken away.”

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“[Places like] the park, playground, swimming pool, [or when the children are] riding their bikes, etc.,” the user added. “It only takes a second for an accident to happen or someone to snatch your child! Who would feel guilty then?” It was a point well made and further illustrated what the Södra Älvsborg Rescue Service Association was trying to get across.

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Mobile devices aren’t the only dangers, of course. When one teenager died after consuming regular soft drinks, his dad couldn’t believe it. But he decided to use his grief productively and raise awareness of what caused his boy’s tragic death. Now, then, he has a stern warning for other parents.

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Davis Cripe came from Richland County in South Carolina, and in 2017, he was a teenager like any other. He kept up with his studies but also had a passion for music, playing drums and the guitar.

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The 16-year-old was transforming from a boy into a man right in front of his parents’ eyes. Heartbreakingly, however, they would never get so see their child grow into an adult, because in April 2017, tragedy struck.

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One day that month, Cripe got up as normal and headed into school. But that afternoon, when the teenager was in art class, he began to feel lightheaded. Then, shortly afterwards, he collapsed on the floor, leading to an ambulance being called.

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Paramedics rushed Cripe to the nearest hospital, but by the time his classmates left school that day, he’d died. It’s safe to say, then, that Cripe’s passing came as a complete shock, especially to everyone who knew him as a healthy and happy young man.

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At first, his death mystified everyone, including his doctors. The teen had no underlying illnesses and had lived an active lifestyle. However, as Cripe’s schoolmates began opening up about the hours prior to his death, alarm bells started to ring.

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A friend who was with the teen on the day of his death revealed that Cripe had consumed lots of caffeine. In fact, over a two-hour period, the teen had ingested one large Mountain Dew, a latte and an energy drink. And, his classmate added, he had “basically chugged” the last of these drinks.

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Later, Richland County Coroner Gary Watts confirmed the speed at which Cripe had consumed the drinks had brought on a “cardiac event.” However, he added that the teen had been very unlucky.

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“The same amount of caffeine on another day may have been right,” Watts said in a statement obtained by the Independent in May 2017. “You can have five people line up and all of them do the exact same thing with him that day, or even drink more, and it may not have any type of effect on them at all. That is what’s so dangerous.”

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Put simply, then, Cripe consumed so much caffeine in such a short space of time that it caused cardiac arrhythmia. The condition prevents the heart from beating properly and in this case caused the teen’s organ to fail completely.

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Understandably, the coroner’s findings proved very distressing to Cripe’s parents, Heidi and Sean. They never imagined something so readily available as caffeinated drinks could claim their boy’s life. And as a result, they struggled to come to terms with their loss.

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“He was a great kid,” Cripe’s father told CBS News in May 2017. “He didn’t get mixed up in the wrong things. You worry about their safety, their health, especially once they start driving. But it wasn’t a crash that took his life. Instead it was an energy drink.”

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And it seems that excessive caffeine consumption poses a greater risk than many people are aware of. Yes, according to Dr. David Agus, a medical expert for CBS News, highly caffeinated energy drinks put 20,000 people in hospital every year.

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“The problem that we’re learning is that it’s not just caffeine, it’s the other stimulants that are in [energy drinks],” Agus explained. “In a cup of coffee, you may have over 45 minutes or 60 minutes. These energy drinks you’re having all at once. And so all the caffeine give this big peak in the body and that’s when bad things happen.”

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Furthermore, the American Academy of Pediatrics agree that energy drinks pose a danger to health. Indeed, it has pointed out that many of the additives in such drinks have not been tested on children. And as such, the organization recommends that young people stay away from energy drinks completely.

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It’s a stance that Cripe’s family have come to agree with. In fact, now, his father is keen to spread awareness on the dangers of consuming too much caffeine. If he can get the word out, he hopes that other families won’t have to suffer the same pain that they have.

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Indeed, the bereaved father said that it was adults’ duty to warn youngsters about consuming too much caffeine. That way, children can make an informed decision on what they drink. “I stand before you as a brokenhearted father and hope that something good can come from this,” he said.

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“Parents, please talk to your kids about the dangers of these energy drinks,” Cripe’s dad urged. “And teenagers and students, please stop buying them. There’s no reason to consume them, they can be very dangerous.”

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According to Caffeine Informer – an online caffeine encyclopedia – healthy adults can ingest 400 milligrams of caffeine safely each day. That equates to about four cups of coffee. Alarmingly, figures from its database indicate that Cripe consumed close to 500 milligrams before he died.

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With this in mind, then, coroner Watts added that it was all about enjoying drinks in moderation. “The purpose here today is not to slam Mountain Dew, not to slam cafe lattes, or energy drinks,” he told NBC News.“But what we want to do is to make people understand that these drinks – this amount of caffeine, how it’s ingested, can have dire consequences. And that’s what happened in this case.”

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