Four teenagers from Buffalo, N.Y., were killed in a car crash stemming from a TikTok trend.
The Buffalo News reports that Marcus Webster, Swazine Swindle, Kevin Payne, and Ahjanae Harper, ages 14-19, died while attempting the “Kia Challenge” — a viral trend that finds users hotwiring and stealing Kias with USB-C cables. The victims were driving the stolen vehicle and crashed on Monday morning (Oct. 26), ejecting them during a single-vehicle rollover.
Two other victims, the driver, 16, and a fifth passenger, 14, were treated at the hospital and released. The unnamed driver has been charged with unauthorized vehicle use and criminal possession of stolen property. He is set to appear in court in Nov. 2022.
Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia said law enforcement had noticed a spike in carjackings “since the TikTok challenge went viral.”
However, some experts remain unconvinced that TikTok or any other challenge could inspire such illegal activity. Yotam Ophir, University at Buffalo assistant professor, spoke about the incident calling the BPD’s claims “unreasonable.”
“Isolating a specific video that seems detrimental, and assuming that it has a huge impact [on] people’s behavior, is just unreasonable from an empirical point of view. That’s not how media effects work,” Ophir said.
“Most people don’t know about these challenges, most people don’t care about these challenges, and even if they watch these videos and find them amusing. It doesn’t mean they’re going to walk out and steal a car.”
The Buffalo Public School District released a statement in the wake of the tragedy, sending their condolences to the affected families.
“We certainly send our deepest condolences and sympathies to all the families, and everyone impacted by this unfortunate and horrific tragedy,” the Buffalo Public School District stated in the wake of the crash.
The investigation into the fatal car crash is currently ongoing.