There’s a TikTok challenge that’s killing people

A concerning trend on TikTok has caught the attention of authorities, prompting warnings about its dangers. According to The Independent, videos of people jumping off moving speedboats have been circulating on the platform since 2020. Unfortunately, reports have emerged of four people in Alabama losing their lives due to this risky activity.

Over the past three years, numerous TikTok users have shared videos of themselves participating in the boat jumping challenge. In one particular video posted by a user called Mark Thompson (@markthompson295) in August 2021, an individual wearing a life jacket was seen leaping off the back of a speedboat, prompting others to follow suit.

Speedboat fatalities

Disturbingly, some videos depicted individuals attempting backflips or jumping into the water with their backs turned away from the boat. These unsafe practices have raised concerns among authorities and emergency responders. Jim Dennis of Alabama’s Childersburg Rescue Squad recently spoke out about the dangers associated with jumping off a moving boat. He revealed that four “easily avoidable” drowning deaths had occurred in the state over the last six months, directly linked to the boat-jumping TikTok challenge.

Dennis explained that participants would leap feet-first into the water while the boat was travelling at a high speed. This reckless behaviour, fueled by the desire to capture attention on social media, has become a worrying pattern that needs to be addressed urgently. “They were doing a TikTok challenge. It’s where you get in a boat going at a high rate of speed, you jump off the side of the boat, don’t dive, you’re jumping off feet first and you just kinda lean into the water,” he reported.

Tragically, one such incident in February resulted in the death of a father who was jumping off a boat while his wife and three young children were present. Shockingly, the wife recorded the fatal incident. Dennis noted that the most recent death occurred in mid-May, and all four individuals who drowned in the state were male. “I think people, if they’re being filmed on camera, I think they’re more likely to do something stupid because they want to show off in front of their friends for social media,” Dennis said.

Dennis emphasised the importance of avoiding such dangerous activities, attributing the rise in risky behaviour to the influence of social media and the desire to impress peers online. He urged people not to take part in the boat-jumping TikTok trend, emphasising that no video or social media post is worth risking one’s life. “Do not do it. It’s not worth your life,” stated Dennis.


However, on July 10, the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency issued a statement contradicting earlier reports regarding the drownings being directly linked to the TikTok trend. They clarified that there were no recorded fatalities in Alabama attributable to TikTok or a TikTok trend. The agency disputed the initial story, maintaining that the information was incorrect.

Despite the agency’s statement, Dennis stood by his original statement, reiterating that the deaths were connected to the TikTok challenge. While the exact cause of the fatalities may remain subject to debate, it is crucial to prioritise safety and avoid engaging in hazardous activities influenced by social media trends.

A history of absurdity

Absurdly enough, this is not the first time a fatal challenge has surfaced on the internet. There’s a great deal of truth to Dennis saying that people, when filmed, tend to lean heavily towards actions that may not have been thought through completely. For instance, the Benadryl Challenge in 2020 claimed lives as well.

As reported by The New York Post, this social media trend involving the ingestion of large amounts of the medicine to induce hallucinations became a cause for concern in 2020, according to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Tragically, a 13-year-old boy from Ohio named Jacob Stevens participated in this dangerous challenge, documenting his actions on video. The incident resulted in an overdose. In a similar incident in 2020, a girl from Oklahoma lost her life while attempting the Benadryl Challenge.

Yet another unnecessarily risky trend involved basting chicken in the cold and allergy medicine NyQuil. This peculiar recipe was supposedly created to combat sleepiness and hunger simultaneously. Amateur chefs on the platform shared videos of themselves marinating chicken breasts in NyQuil, despite the dangers associated with ingesting and preparing such a concoction. The FDA warned against this creation, citing the potential for increased concentration and altered properties when boiling medication.

Another dangerous viral trend known as the “skull breaker challenge” gained traction in the recent past, reportedly originating in Venezuela as “rompcráneos.” The trend involved three individuals jumping next to each other, with the friends on either end kicking the feet out from under the person in the middle. This action resulted in the person falling to the ground, landing on their back and hitting their head in the process.

Unfortunately, the trend led to injuries in various locations such as Miami, New Jersey, and Arizona. In Daytona Beach, Florida, two high school teenagers faced misdemeanour battery and cyberbullying charges following an incident related to the challenge. Medical professionals swiftly condemned the practice, highlighting the potential for severe and life-threatening injuries. These injuries ranged from skull fractures to paralysis and even death.

It is unclear why these challenges arise. Are they pleas for help? Or is the incessant need for virality a major player in the decision-making processes of participants? One can only hope that sense prevails before more lives are lost for views and likes.

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