The California law enforcement community is deep into an investigation concerning a fatal vehicular accident that took place earlier this week, with initial evidence pointing towards a potentially deadly TikTok challenge as the catalyst.
The accident claimed the lives of 21-year-old Jess Bradford Jr. and 16-year-old Michael Wyrick. The crash took place early on Monday when the Hyundai they were illegally commandeering collided with a fence and a tree in Peterson Park, Lodi. This information was shared by the Lodi Police Department.
Investigators are focusing on the possibility that the two young men were members of a group involved in stealing the Hyundai and a Kia vehicle the preceding night. This could have been instigated by the infamous TikTok “Kia challenge,” a viral trend encouraging individuals to hotwire these specific car models using a USB drive, as reported by CBS.
According to the news outlet, Bradford, Wyrick, and the still-unidentified individuals in the Kia had instigated a high-speed pursuit with law enforcement less than an hour before the fatal incident. The chase was eventually called off when the lights of the stolen vehicles were switched off.
The owner of the stolen Kia expressed shock and disbelief at the incident, having no idea where the vehicle currently is. The incident also caused collateral damage, with a vehicle parked by Gannon Shumer, a witness, being damaged by one of the stolen cars during the chase.
Sadly, this is not the first instance of TikTok being linked to a tragic accident. Last autumn, a high-speed crash involving a stolen Kia resulted in the loss of four teenage lives in Buffalo.
According to reports from police departments nationwide, there has been an alarming increase in thefts of Kia and Hyundai vehicles since the first video demonstrating this dangerous trick surfaced last summer.