Four teens were killed in a Buffalo car crash – with a young mother amongst the victims – while attempting a dangerous new TikTok challenge where participants steal cars using only a USB cord and a screwdriver.
On Tuesday, WGRZ confirmed the identifies of the victims: Marcus Webster, 19, Swazine Swindle, 17, Kevin Payne, 16, and Ahjanae Harper, 14. The four were killed when the stolen Kia they were riding in crashed Monday morning, with the force of the crash ejecting them and one other passenger, leaving just two survivors.
Teens Crashed After Hot-Wiring Stolen Car As Part Of TikTok “Kia Challenge,” Authorities Say
The driver of the stolen vehicle, 16, was treated at a nearby hospital and has already been released. Another passenger, a 14-year-old girl, remains at the Erie County Medical Center in good condition.
The teens had been participating in the “Kia Challenge,” where TikTok users hot-wire Kia models produced from 2011 and 2012 and Hyundai models from 2015 to 2021, and go for a joyride in the carjacked vehicle.
Older models have a flaw where the car can be started once the the under-column cowl near the steering column is removed, allowing anyone to enter an unlocked car and steal it, oftentimes driving in excess of 90 mph.
Four teens k!lled in a car cr@sh in Buffalo while attempting the viral TikTok “Kia challenge”
“Kia challenge” is an ongoing viral Tiktok challenge, that shows viewers how to steal a Kia/Hyundai car with a USB cord and a screwdriver then drive 60/90 mph and swing left and right pic.twitter.com/6DlrkbOTaI
— OSG (@OloriSupergal) October 27, 2022
The 16-year-old driver of the Kia, which was reported Sunday night, has been charged with unauthorized use of a vehicle and criminal possession of stolen property and is due back in court next month.
Young Mother, 14, Among Those Dead Following Fatal Car Crash Inspired By Viral TikTok Challenge
Among the deceased was a young mother, 14-year-old Ahjanae Harper, who had recently welcomed a baby girl, according to a local interviewed in a video shared on Twitter.
“She was a young mother,” the man recalled. “She definitely spent a lot of time with her daughter.”
Harper was set to celebrate her 15th birthday on November 1, according to A GoFundMe set up by her family on Tuesday. As of Thursday, the fundraiser raised $1,858 of a $15,000 goal.
The investigation into the deadly accident remains ongoing, according to authorities.
— Claudine Ewing (@ClaudineWgrz) October 25, 2022
Buffalo Police Commissioner Says TikTok Challenge Has Caused Spike In Car Thefts
On Monday, Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia said law enforcement has seen an increase in car thefts ever since the challenge went viral earlier this summer.
However, experts say that most online denizens wouldn’t be inspired to commit a crime for an internet challenge, and even if they find it amusing: “It doesn’t mean they’re going to walk out and steal a car.”
“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.
Ophir went on to say that “most people don’t know about these challenges, most people don’t care about these challenges.”
So this is the “Kia challenge” .. this is just sad🤦🏾♀️ pic.twitter.com/2t5fLkJ6Ni
— Cee 🦋 (@Zeekulture) October 26, 2022
The “Kia Challenge” is amongst many deadly trends to have swept TikTok in recent months.
“Kia Challenge” One Of Many Recent Viral TikTok Trends That Have Sent Users To Hospital, Alongside Several Fatalities
In September, The Shade Room reported on a disturbing viral trend called the “blackout challenge,” where kids see how long they can hold their breath before losing consciousness.
The New York Post reported that 14-year-old Leon Brown died after participating in the challenge, just weeks after another boy, Archie Battersbee, 12, allegedly died under similar circumstances.
Both boys were from the United Kingdom, however child deaths attributed to the trend have been found worldwide, from the United States to Italy.
12 Years old boy Archie dies after attempting TikTok blackout challengehttps://t.co/3qKWZDNXsu#TikTok #TikTokviral #TikTokライブ #TikToknaked #tiktokhotindo #tiktokchallenge #TikTokLive #tiktokthots #BlackoutChallenge pic.twitter.com/4uLXw6sqZO
— TikTok Death (@TikTokDeath) August 25, 2022
That same month, The Shade Room reported on another TikTok trend that went viral, where participants endure the incredibly spicy “One Chip Challenge,” which packs such a punch that it’s sending people to the hospital.
The challenge is an ongoing dare put forth by Paqui, the flavored tortilla chip company behind the viral trend.
In July, The Shade Room reported an 18-year-old New York City teen was shot to death by an off-duty corrections officer on Thursday, and authorities said he might have been participating in a TikTok challenge involving a toy gun.