Teen TikTok star who died in fiery crash at center of ‘human smuggling probe’, police say

TikTok star Gabriel Salazar had three undocumented passengers in his car when it crashed, police say

Sheila Flynn
Sunday 03 October 2021 20:07 BST
<p>Gabriel Salazar died in a car crash in Texas on 26 September, 2021</p>

Gabriel Salazar died in a car crash in Texas on 26 September, 2021

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Police in Texas have alleged that a teenage TikTok star was transporting undocumented migrants when he was involved in a fiery car crash which left him and the three passengers dead, according to a report.

The deadly wreck which killed Gabriel Salazar, 19, is being investigated as a possible smuggling case, officials said.

Mr Salazar, who had around two million followers on his Gabenotbabe TikTok account, died last month after a high-speed police chase.

Luis Jimenez Mora, 41, Jose Molina-Lara, 23, and Sergio Espinoza-Flores, 36, were also killed, according to officials. The three men were originally from Zacatecas, northwest of Mexico City, the Mexican Consul in Texas told Univision41.

The crash took place after a Crystal City Police officer tried to stop Mr Salazar’s white 2014 Camaro. When the driver failed to stop, the officer pursued before the vehicle struck trees, rolled over several times and “was fully engulfed in flames”, a report said.

“On September 26, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Eagle Pass, Texas, assisted Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) in Zavala County with a vehicular accident which occurred near LaPryor, Texas, that resulted in the death of four individuals,” HSI said in a statement to the Houston Chronicle without naming the victims.

“The incident is suspected of being a possible human smuggling event. No additional details are being released at this time; as the criminal investigation remains ongoing.”

The Texas Department of Public Safety is leading the investigation but did not immediately respond to requests for comment from The Independent.

The Crystal City Police Department and Zavala County Sheriff’s Office are also involved in the investigation.

Authorities say the investigation is ongoing and have not revealed what prompted the traffic stop. The sheriff’s office was criticised on social media after posting a photo of the wreckage.

Mr Salazar, who was born in Brownsville but relocated to San Antonio with his family, had only recently graduated from Wagner High School.

He told San Antonio Magazine last year that he began posting on TikTok when he moved home and was looking to make friends.

His account quickly gained popularity; within two years of his first post, he had 2million TikTok followers and more than 700,000 on Instagram. His accounts featured lip sync videos, skits, clothes, jewelry, trips and, quite frequently, fast cars.

“I never thought I’d be where I am, but I am so thankful for all my followers,” the teenager told San Antonio Magazine. “Everyone wants the hype. TikTok definitely has the power to get you that.”

Tributes poured in on social media for the rising star, whose funeral was held on Wednesday in San Antonio.

A GoFundMe page has raised more than $38,000 and describes how the teen “loved his family and was always horsing around with [his] sister and little brother”.

“Words cannot express the heartbreak our entire community is feeling from the loss of our Gabriel . Your family and friends miss you,” a friend wrote.

Mr Salazar’s older sister, Danna, writing in Spanish on Instagram, said: “I love you so much Gabriel. You were so perfect. I will never forget you, take care of us from heaven my beautiful boy. Always in my heart.”

The Independent has contacted TikTok and has made repeated attempts to reach Mr Salazar’s family for comment.

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