YouTuber pays compensation after ‘copycat’ death

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A Chinese influencer has agreed to pay compensation to the families of two girls – after one died in what her family says was an attempt to copy a viral video.

 

Ms Yeah, who has seven million subscribers on YouTube, is known for unconventional office cooking videos.

The girls, aged 14 and 12, were allegedly copying a video in which Ms Yeah makes popcorn in a tin can.

The girls were heating up alcohol in the cans when it exploded.

The 14-year-old, identified only as Zhezhe, later died from her injuries.

The 12-year-old girl, Xiaoyu, needs cosmetic surgery, according to her family.

Despite paying compensation, Ms Yeah denied that the girls were replicating her video – saying they attempted a different method, and that her videos are not meant to be instructional.

Representatives of Ms Yeah have met the families of both victims and agreed to pay them an undisclosed amount.

Ms Yeah will cover the 12-year-old’s hospital bills, though it is unclear if any more compensation will be included.

The online star, who rose to fame in 2017, is known for videos in which she makes elaborate meals at work using equipment found in her office.

One of Ms Yeah’s representatives, her cousin, said that they would provide financial assistance to the families “regardless of who was right and who was wrong”.

He said he hoped there would “not be any hate” between both parties.

Xiaoyu’s father told news site the Beijing News that his daughter had incurred high hospital bills, saying she “no longer dared to step out of the house” due to the burn marks.

Zhezhe’s father was pictured crying, saying no amount of money could bring his daughter back.

The accident took place on 22 August when the girls decided to imitate a video by Ms Yeah in which she makes popcorn in a tin can.

In the original video, which has now been taken down, Ms Yeah can be seen putting popcorn kernels in a tin can. She then ignites a small flame using an instrument resembling an alcohol burner.

The girls had reportedly been heating up alcohol directly inside the tin cans when it exploded. Both of them were severely burnt.

According to the Beijing News, Zhezhe suffered burns on 96% of her body. She died on 5 September.

Xiaoyu was rushed to the hospital and pictures of her widely circulated on social media site Weibo show severe burns to her face and arms. The BBC was not able to independently verify the pictures.

Ms Yeah, 25 – whose real name is Zhou Xiao Hui – broke her silence on Weibo, a platform where she has close to 8.2 million followers, on 10 September.

In a post captioned “The darkest day of my life”, Ms Yeah said news of the tragedy had caused her “immense pain”. She apologised and said she had “let her fans down”.

However, she denied the girls had been copying her videos.

“I used only one tin can and an alcohol lamp, which is safer,” she said. “In [their video] we could clearly see that they used two cans and not a lamp.”

She said the accident happened because the girls poured alcohol into the cans while the flame was lit and the spark ignited a 1kg (2.2lbs) bucket of industrial alcohol that was nearby.

Ms Yeah said that all her videos included warnings advising viewers not to imitate her actions, emphasising that her videos were “not meant to be instructional”.

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