Rescue chief rows back on suggested link between boat challenge deaths and TikTok

Rescue chief rows back on suggested link between boat challenge deaths and TikTok
Parent to Parent: The Dangers of TikTok challenges

Authorities have poured water on the suggestion that TikTok challenges are in some way responsible for recent drownings in the US.

It was widely reported that a so-called “boat jumping” or “boat jump” trend had inadvertently claimed the lives of four people this year, after an official in Alabama issued a stark warning.

Cpt. Jim Dennis, the head of Alabama’s Childersburg Rescue Squad, told local news site WBMA: “[Over the] last six months we have had four drownings that were easily avoidable – they were doing a TikTok challenge.”

He explained: “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.”

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Cpt. Dennis’s comments were picked up by a number of news outlets, encouraging further discussion on the potentially nefarious power of social media trends.


First responders in Alabama are seeing a spike in drownings related to a TikTok boating challenge, where people jump off of a boat moving at high speeds. #boat #tiktokchallenge #alabama #firstresponders #jumpoffboat

However, he later rowed back on his mention of the video-sharing app, insisting that remarks attributed to him were taken out of context during interviews he gave promoting boating safety, AL.comreports.

“It got blown way out of proportion,’’ he said of the publicity.

“We’ve had four drownings in the last six to eight months and some of those were just drownings,’’ he added.

The first responder confirmed that he’d worked on one death of someone jumping from a boat, but admitted: “To say that’s the reason they died, I can’t say that. That would be a matter of opinion.”

Meanwhile, the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA) issued its own statement on the issue, saying: “On Monday, July 3, a news story was shared regarding ‘first responders warning against a deadly boating TikTok trend after recent drownings’ in Alabama.

“However, please be advised the information released to the news outlet was incorrect. 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.”

They added: “One individual was fatality 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.”

Cpt. Dennis acknowledged that in one of the fatal cases he worked on, the victim did jump from a moving boat. But, he said he had no proof that it was linked to any TikTok challenge.

A second person also died after jumping off a boat, but he said his squad had received conflicting statements as to whether the vessel was moving or stationary.

He continued: “If we have a drowning, we may know unofficially what it is but to make an official statement, that would have to come from ALEA. Sometimes it’s a year or two before they get the final coroner’s report.”

Still, the rescue chief was keen to emphasise the dangers of boat jumping.

“Just from growing up around water, when you’re jumping off boats that are moving at a high rate of speed, things can happen,’’ he said.

“Water is the hardest surface known to man. We cut diamonds and steel with it. When you’re moving at a high rate of speed and you hit the water wrong, it’s like hitting a brick wall. Your neck is the weakest part and you run the risk of breaking it.

“There is a TikTok challenge, but I do know jumping off of a moving boat is nothing new,’’ he added.

“As far as TikTok, there’s not a challenge on there that’s any good.”

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