BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – Four teenagers killed in a car accident on Monday morning may have been participating in a social-media-inspired “challenge,” police in Buffalo, New York, said.
Police said six teens, aged 14 to 19, were riding in a Kia that had been reported stolen the night before. The speeding car crashed and rolled over at around 6:30 a.m. on Monday morning, ejecting five of the passengers from the vehicle.
Three of the passengers were pronounced dead at the scene, while another was confirmed dead later that morning.
One of the ejected passengers, a 14-year-old female, survived, as did the 16-year-old male driver, police said.
The female passenger is in good condition at the Erie County Medical Center in Buffalo, while the 16-year-old driver was treated and released. The driver has been charged with third-degree unauthorized use of a vehicle and fourth-degree criminal possession of stolen property. He may also face additional charges, according to the district attorney’s office.
No other motorists were injured, Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia confirmed at a Monday press conference.
“It was a one-vehicle accident — the car into the wall,” he said.
Investigators believe that excessive speed was a factor in the accident. Gramaglia added Monday that the teens may also have been participating in what he referred to as the “Kia Challenge,” meaning they may have learned how to break into and start Kia vehicles using USB chargers.
“I don’t have the exact model, but it’s a Kia,” Gramaglia told a reporter who inquired about the vehicle at a Monday press conference. “I know Kias are widely publicized … the ‘Kia Challenge,’ as it’s called. They are very easy, unfortunately, to steal.”
This method to which Gramaglia referred, which allegedly allows a driver to bypass a chip or a key to start certain Kia models, has been demonstrated on social media platforms, Nexstar’s WXIN previously reported.
In recent months, other police departments across the country have acknowledged similar break-ins and thefts, citing the lack of an immobilization device on certain Kia and Hyundai models. In Norfolk, Virginia, police have observed a 35% increase in Kia and Hyundai thefts in the first half of July alone, WAVY reported. And police in other municipalities, such as Beloit, Wisconsin, and Kentwood, Michigan, are urging Kia and Hyundai owners to take extra precautions.
Both Kia and Hyundai have also been targeted in a class-action lawsuit over the increased risk of theft associated with certain models, KTLA reported last month.
Gramaglia, meanwhile, said Monday that the incident involving the teenagers had been “horrific” not only for the victims’ families, but the police as well.
“This is a terrible, terrible outcome for such young kids that have their whole lives in front of them,” he said.
The incident is still under investigation.