New York Post reported that four teenagers who died in a car crash in Buffalo on October 24 were attempting a TikTok challenge that dares people to steal cars. The deceased teens were identified as Marcus Webster, 19, Swazine Swindle, 17, Kevin Payne, 16, and Ahjanae Harper, 14.
The driver, 16, as well as a 14-year-old female passenger also sustained injuries from the crash. They were taken to a hospital for treatment. An individual who also spoke with WGRZ said that Harper was a “young mother” who “definitely spent a lot of time with her daughter.”
The driver of the stolen KIA vehicle was discharged after he was treated at the hospital. Authorities have since charged him with unauthorized use of a vehicle and criminal possession of stolen property.
The teens were allegedly attempting a TikTok challenge when the fatal accident occurred. Known as the “Kia challenge”, the viral trend offers a tutorial on how to steal certain Kia and Hyundai vehicles without using a key, WIBV reported. The items that are frequently used to hot-wire the stolen vehicles include screwdrivers and USB cables.
“We don’t want anybody victimized and we don’t want anybody getting hurt,” Joseph Milosich, who is with the Tonawanda Police Department, said. “These are games almost, right? And there’s a lot of youth getting involved in that and that can be scary, right? Because there’s a lot at stake here and in particular, it’s dangerous when you get things like joy riding and cruising around in vehicles — there’s a lot at stake.”
Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia also said that the number of reported car thefts had increased in the wake of the viral challenge. But experts argue that could not be the reason.
“Isolating a specific video that seems detrimental, and assuming that it has a huge impact over people’s behavior, is just unreasonable from an empirical point of view. That’s not how media effects work,” Yotam Ophir, an assistant professor in the University at Buffalo communication department, told WIBV.
“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.”