Since 2020, people on TikTok have shared videos of themselves jumping off a moving speed boat. Now, authorities have spoken out about the dangers of this activity.
Over the last three years, people have posted footage of themselves doing the boat jumping challenge. In one video posted by @markthompson295 in August 2021, one person could been seen wearing a life jacket, as they jumped off the back of a speedboat. After this person jumped off, many other people in life jackets proceeded to follow their lead.
In addition, other videos have documented people doing backflips or with their backs turned away from the water, when jumping off speedboats.
On 3 July, first responders described the dangers of jumping off a moving boat, as it could cause people to break their necks and drown. Jim Dennis of Alabama’s Childersburg Rescue Squad told WBMA that the boat jumping challenge led to four “easily avoidable” drowning deaths in the state, which occurred in the last six months.
“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 said about the people who died.
He added: “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 said.
In one instance in February, a father died while jumping off a boat, with his wife and three young children on board. According to Dennis, the wife “unfortunately recorded” her husband’s death. He also noted that the most recent death came in mid-May, while adding that the four people who drowned in the state were males.
Dennis urged people to avoid jumping off speed boats, with claims that social media had influenced TikTok users to try this trend.
“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,” he told WPDE. “Do not do it. It’s not worth your life.”
However, on 10 July, The Alabama Law Enforcement Agency issued a statement to correct the report about these drownings being linked to the TikTok trend. In the statement issued to ABC, the agency said that the WNBA released the story: “first responders warning against a deadly boating TikTok trend after recent drownings”, with incorrect information.
“The Alabama Law Enforcement Agency’s (ALEA) Marine Patrol Division does not have any record(s) of boating or marine-related fatalities in Alabama that can be directly linked to TikTok or a trend on TikTok,” 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.”
The Alabama Law Enforcement Agency also noted that they spoke to Dennis, and claimed that he still stood by his initial statement about the deaths being related to the TikTok challenge.
After the story was widely picked up by the media Dennis told AL.com that the initial comments attributed to him had been blown “way out of proportion”. He told the news outlet that two Alabamans had died recently after jumping from boats, but he had no idea whether they were connected to TikTok.
“If there’s data supporting that, I don’t have that,” he said, adding that a cause of death would have to be determined by a coroner.
Meanwhile, experts have still spoken out about the dangers of jumping off a fast-moving boat. Speaking to Today, Gail Kulp, the executive director of the Sea Tow Foundation, emphasised that people are putting their physical health and live in jeopardy when doing this activity.
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