16-year-old driver charged with manslaughter for Buffalo 'Kia challenge' crash that left 4 dead
BUFFALO, NEW YORK: A 16-year-old who drove a stolen SUV as part of a TikTok trend that crashed and killed four teenage passengers in Buffalo last month was charged with manslaughter on November 22. The prosecutor alleged the teen caused the crash by recklessly driving the SUV while it was stolen.
The driver of the stolen Kia is accused of pressing the gas pedal so hard it caused the death of four people in the crash while another passenger who survived was thrown out of the car. This was part of a TikTok challenge called the 'Kia Challenge'.
In a press release, the Erie County District Attorney’s Office said that the teenager, who was unidentified by authorities, was indicted on four counts of second-degree manslaughter relating to the death of the four teenagers. He told reporters, “I still don’t think it’s right that this kid is out playing video games when on Thursday at Thanksgiving, there’s going to be an empty chair of four individuals at the Thanksgiving dinner table.”
According to the New York Post, Marcus Webster, a 19-year-old boy, died at the hospital while Swazine Swindle, a 17-year-old boy, Kevin Payne, 16, and Ahjanae Harper, a 14-year-old girl were all declared dead at the scene. A 14-year-old girl was hospitalized with injuries and released later. The defense attorney said in court that the victims were friends of the accused.
Jonathan Michaels, of MLG Attorneys at Law, told ABC News, “This is something that, on a young brain that’s not fully developed, that temptation is just so strong, and they’re not understanding the consequences of what they’re doing, and all their friends are doing it. So it's foreseeable this is happening, and it’s a defect to begin with.”
Erie County District Attorney John Flynn also told reporters that the crash occurred at around 6.45 am on October 24. The stolen car flipped backward after hitting a concrete embarkment.
The New York Post reported that the families of two victims have filed a lawsuit against Kia Corp and Kia America Inc, accusing them of creating a public nuisance by being negligent.
On November 28, the teen driver will undergo a pre-trial conference wherein the prosecutors will demand that the teenager be tried in adult court.