Screaming man in fiery car crash is not Swedish artist Lars Vilks

Years-old video from Russia falsely portrayed as crash that killed artist Lars Vilks

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Claim: A video allegedly depicting Swedish artist Lars Vilks screaming from within a car at the site of a fiery crash has surfaced on social media, three days after Vilks died in a car accident in Sweden. Vilks was known for the controversy surrounding his drawings of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).

Fact: The video is in fact from the site of a multi-vehicle crash that took place over seven years ago and is not related to Vilks’ death in any way.

In 2007, Vilks drew a cartoon depicting the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) as a roundabout dog (a form of street installation in Sweden), causing uproar across the Muslim world and leaving Vilks in need of police protection due to resulting death threats. Vilks died on 3 October 2021 at the age of 75, when his car, which was also carrying two officers for his protection, collided with a truck in Sweden’s Markaryd town. Investigators have ruled out foul play.

On 6 October 2021, a video emerged on social media depicting the scene of a multi-vehicle accident in which a man’s screams can be heard from inside a burning vehicle. The car — positioned ahead of a semi-trailer truck — is up in flames, with seemingly no way out for the passengers despite bystanders attempting to help.

The video was published by hundreds of Facebook accounts and pages with the following caption (or similar captions):

“نبی کریم صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم کا خاکہ بنانے والا اللہ سبحانہ و تعالی نے ایسی موت دی کے ساری دنیا دیکھ رہے ہیں”

“The man who made a sketch of the Holy Prophet (sws) was given such an exemplary death by Allah (swt) that the whole world is watching.”

Most of the pages that posted the video are Pakistan-centric, with posts that typically focus on Pakistani politicians and their parties, sports, TV channels, Islam and events in other Muslim states, poetry, and music, among other topics. For the most part, the pages seem to function similar to content farms or meme accounts, creating posts designed to go viral.

According to a CrowdTangle analysis, the video has spread like wildfire, garnering 140,977 interactions across 2,603 posts since 5 October. The top twelve most popular posts alone amassed more than a whopping 588,000 interactions.

The CrowdTangle analysis further showed that a post by ‘Zameer Khan Zameer,’ a page with more than 1.1 million likes, generated the most reactions at over 4500, while another post by ‘Qari Sardar Ali Qadri Naat shareef’ fetched the most views at more than 283,500 views. Meanwhile, a post by ‘ITS Marghuz swabi’ is doing over 28 times better than other similar posts, having been shared more than 10,000 times since it was posted on 5 October.

Soch Fact Check received the video for verification purposes and ascertained that it has absolutely no link to Swedish artist Lars Vilks.

A series of screenshots that Soch Fact Check uploaded on reverse image search engines to find the original video

To investigate the source of the video, Soch Fact Check used multiple tools — including the TinEye reverse image search engine and Google Reverse Image Search — and cross-referenced screenshots from the clip in question with prior traffic crash videos uploaded to YouTube. The top result on YouTube for the search term “truck car crash fire man screaming” is in fact a 10-minute clip, posted seven years ago, depicting the same scene as in the alleged video of Vilks being circulated now.

The original video, posted on YouTube by Russian broadcaster REN TV, shows that it was shared on 23 September 2014 and has 106,548 views so far

Additionally, the Russian language search term “дтп человек сгорел заживо”, which translates to ‘car accident man burned to death’, yields a video of a news report from 23 September 2014 showing the same scene of a multi-vehicle crash, posted by an account run by Russia’s free-to-air network REN TV. The clip has over 106,000 views; a longer version was uploaded a month after the original video went up but did not gain much traction.

According to a report by local news outlet Izhlife, the accident took place on 21 September 2014 in Udmurtia (a republic in Russia) on a highway connecting Izhevsk to Mozga, and involved nine vehicles. The news outlet also uploaded a video showing the crash site after the fire was extinguished. Fontanka reported that the 39-year-old driver whose car was the focus of the video died as he could not be pulled out of the vehicle. It also shared another video shot by an eyewitness.

The TinEye search engine provided further confirmation that the video does not in fact depict Vilks’ recent death. The tool revealed that various screenshots from the video in question matched with just one other clip — the 2014 video of the multi-vehicle crash posted by Russia’s REN TV. The search engine established the match by slightly tilting the original video, as shown in the image below.

TinEye search engine matched one of the screenshots uploaded by Soch Fact Check to the original video

Conclusion: The video allegedly depicting Swedish artist Lars Vilks screaming in a burning car following an accident is in fact a clip from a multi-vehicle accident that took place in Russia over seven years ago. The video has absolutely no connection to the Swedish cartoonist, who died in a collision on 3 October 2021.

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