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22 May, 2009 15:36

Chance for shocking video worth lives?

Chance for shocking video worth lives?

A controversy over footage of a traffic accident shot with a mobile phone camera is brewing on Russian blogs. The author preferred taking pictures of people burning alive to using the phone to call for help.

The accident happened in the city of Perm near the Ural mountains on May 10. A Ssang-Young Rexton off-roader with five people ran off the road and hit a street lamp with its side at high speed. The car was nearly cut in half and caught fire, burning out in a matter of minutes.

Four passengers died on the spot while the driver managed to get out, dodging almost certain death. He is now being treated in the hospital as half of his body was badly burned.

On Thursday night, footage of the incident made by an eyewitness was uploaded to YouTube and some other video-sharing websites, and quickly sparked controversy in the Russian Internet community.

Some people were shocked by the fact that the author used his mobile phone to take the video, rather than to call an ambulance and a fire crew. According to media reports, it was residents of nearby houses who called for help from the rescue services. Neither did the guy, other gawkers, or drivers of the cars passing by, did much to find a fire extinguisher to help the people inside the car.

“It’s a new thing. A terrifying and modern one. We, the journalists, have a hand in it. Now the people don’t think about saving lives. They think about a few minutes of hot amateur video, which TV stations are eager to take, or "it becomes an instant hit on the internet,” one blogger said, commenting on the controversial footage.

“I hate the way the camera man makes a show out of it. ‘Have you seen the man who was burned alive there?’ he says. They could have saved him, too, if they wanted to,” says another one.

Others are not so eager to point fingers at the author of the video. It clearly shows that both he and his friends wanted to help, but didn’t know how to do it. The man with the phone is heard saying: “How can we get the man out? Let’s think of something, let’s get him out.” But the car was badly damaged with doors jammed closed and it was already on fire.

After a minute of frantic argument, one of the friends jumped on the hood and kicked the windshield out. The compartment was already burning, but the man managed to escape, as the people were crying in panic urging him to get out.

“The guys who saved the driver are good men,” said a person commenting on the video.

Whether the footage evidences people’s indifference to strangers, inability to distinguish real life from action blockbusters, or simply a failure of common folk to cope with shock and act in a dangerous situation remains in question.