Abstract An estimate of the electronic stopping of a swift cluster ion during different stages of penetration in a given material is presented. We take a simplified approach to the stopping process by neglecting vicinage effects on the stopping cross section as well as spatial distortion due to Coulomb forces among ions. The different stages of penetration and energy loss are based on the hypothesis of formation of a transient plasma (the plasma stopping regime)—due to the release of energetic electrons from the target material—within and around the spatial region defined by the correlated positions of each cluster constituent ion (atom). The density of the transient plasma is treated as a function of the rate of energy deposition and depth up to a point where the rate of energy deposition yields a threshold value where the ejected target electrons immediately recombine so that stopping in a cold target begins (conventional stopping regime) and where the cluster constituent ions start being neutralized according to a charge equilibration scheme as depicted by the effective charge relation of Betz. The model is applied to the stopping of 40.2 Mev C 60 3+ projectiles penetrating an Yttrium–Iron Garnet (YIG) target. Also, in this case, a possible explanation for the experimentally observed cluster-fragmentation events at a certain depth is presented.