In late October, police officers in Buffalo, New York were responding to a speeding car and gave chase. It ended in the worst way possible with all but two occupants (6 in total) in what turned out to be a stolen Kia Sportage were involved in a fatal accident in their attempt to flee.
The four deceased victims, ranging from 14 to 17 years old, were ejected from the vehicle with a 5th hospitalised in intensive care and the 16 year old driver was released after being treated for minor injuries.
While the chase and subsequent crash occurred early in the morning, around 6.30am, the Kia was reported stolen the previous evening. Buffalo police commissioner Joseph Gramaglia told reporters that they believe the teens were participating in a TikTok challenge which encourages people to break into Kia cars by exploiting an immobiliser and ignition bypass accessed using cellphone chargers.
The so-called ‘Kia challenge’ isn’t exactly something new but had gained traction on the social media platform after emerging in the past few months. Prior videos showed how certain models from Korean car brand (including some Hyundais) could be hotwired with just a USB cable and a screwdriver. Police observed a pattern of increased vehicle thefts involving those cars over the summer.
Back to the incident at hand, the driver was charged with the criminal possession of stolen property and unauthorised use of a motor vehicle while additional charges are being investigated by the Erie County district attorney’s office.
In September, about a month prior to this most recent high profile tragedy, a class-action lawsuit was filed that alleges Kias built between 2011 and 2015 and Hyundais built from 2015 to 2021 lacked engine immobilisers, making them more vulnerable to theft.
In addition to monetary damages, the lawsuit seeks that a nationwide recall program be implemented to rectify the issue.