Many people on social media were surprised to find out about a TikTok “boat jumping challenge.” The viral trend involved people taking videos of themselves jumping off moving speedboats. Also, in other videos, people could be seen doing backflips or jumping off speedboats with their backs turned away from the water.
First responders had warned of the dangers of participating in such a dangerous TikTok trend, which could lead to people breaking their necks and drowning. Jim Dennis of Alabama’s Childersburg Rescue Squad told a local news station that in the last six months, the challenge led to “four easily avoidable drowning incidents.”
He noted that this dangerous trend seemed to be growing over time. “That is a very big concern because we have seen this pattern emerge over the last two years, and it’s sporadic, but it’s something that needs to go away and stay away,” he added.
He urged people to avoid such a trend and protect their family and friends from jumping. “Do not do it,” he said. “It’s not worth your life,” he pleaded. Additionally, on July 5th, ABC affiliation station WVTM reported that at least four people lost their lives as a result of the challenge.
However, on Monday, officials of the Alabama Law Enforcement Squad came out to clarify that there were no documented cases of fatalities in the state that could be directly linked to the viral TikTok trend. The clarification comes after numerous reports of four people losing their lives.
On the 10th of July, TODAY aired a segment discussing the risk of social media challenges while quoting Dennis as an authority. However, he later clarified that his initial remarks were taken out of context and that he couldn’t say for certain that social media was the cause of these incidents.
“We’ve had four drownings in the last six to eight months (that the Childersburg Rescue Squad worked), and some of those were just drownings,’’ he told the outlet. “To say (social media is) the reason they lost their lives, I can’t say that,’’ he said. “That would be a matter of opinion.” Despite attempts to reach out to the rescue squad leader for further comment, NBC News has been unable to contact him.
The Alabama Law Enforcement Agency’s Marine Patrol Division also issued a statement that they had no recorded boating or marine-related fatalities directly linked to TikTok. “On Monday, July 3, a news story was shared regarding “first responders warning against a dangerous boating TikTok trend after recent drownings” in Alabama. However, please be advised the information released to the news outlet was incorrect,” the statement read.
“One individual was fatally injured after jumping from a moving vessel in 2020, and a similar marine-related fatality occurred in 2021. However, both fatalities cannot be linked to TikTok,” it concluded.
TikTok responded by adding warnings to some videos related to the activity, cautioning users about the potential risks involved. The company also emphasized that the challenge shouldn’t be tied to them. “It’s not accurate to characterize or report this as a TikTok challenge,” they told NBC News.