YouTuber charged for stunt in which helicopter shot fireworks at Lamborghini

A YouTuber who posted a Fourth of July video showing passengers from a low-flying helicopter shooting fireworks at a speeding Lamborghini is facing federal charges related to the stunt.

Suk Min Choi, 24, who runs a YouTube channel under the name Alex Choi, was charged Thursday with causing the placement of an explosive or incendiary device on an aircraft, the Justice Department announced. He arranged for the helicopter to fly over the El Mirage Dry Lakebed near Los Angeles in June 2023 for a video titled “Destroying a Lamborghini With Fireworks,” according to a complaint filed in California’s Central District Court.

The video, released on July 4, shows scenes similar to an action movie as Choi laughs while driving the Lamborghini and the helicopter-launched fireworks bounce off the car, enveloping it in sparks.

The images prompted investigations by the Federal Aviation Administration and the Department of Transportation’s Office of Inspector General. Choi is also accused of failing to obtain the permits and waivers needed to film with a helicopter and use fireworks on the federal territory where the video was filmed.

Choi did not immediately respond to requests for comment Thursday. Court records did not list an attorney for him and it was unclear whether he was still in custody.

Choi, whose YouTube channel has about 900,000 subscribers and features luxury supercars, said in the video that he created the stunt to “make the craziest Fourth of July video with cars and fireworks.”

The video, which was recently deleted from Choi’s channel but can be viewed in an online archive, shows a blue Lamborghini speeding across a lake bottom, closely followed by a helicopter. Two women on the plane use portable tubes to fire fireworks at the car.

In another shot, the Lamborghini does donuts and shoots fireworks upward from a box mounted on the car, while the helicopter hovers nearby. Towards the end of the video, fireworks strike people on the ground. Choi speaks to the crew and when someone is hit by fireworks, some people show small, scorched holes in their hoodies and pants.

Choi and his crew performed the stunt in early June 2023 and returned to the lake bottom later that month to repeat the stunt and capture additional footage, according to the video and the complaint. He published the video with the caption “Happy birthday America!” According to an archive of the video’s YouTube page, the video received approximately 500,000 views before it was removed from his channel.

The FAA began investigating the video days after Choi published it, the complaint said. The agency suspended the license of the pilot involved in the shooting for dangerous flying and operating a helicopter within 500 feet of people and a moving car. That pilot was a friend of Choi’s who was paid to fly during the shooting, according to text messages reviewed by investigators.

Department of Transportation investigators discovered that Choi’s team had not received a waiver from the region’s FAA Flight Standards District Offices to film using a helicopter, the complaint said. The complaint also says a pilot should have submitted an activity plan to the FAA for approval before a shoot.

According to the complaint, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives did not issue explosives licenses to Choi’s team mentioned in the video. The filming also took place on a portion of the El Mirage Dry Lakebed and would require a filming permit and the presence of a pyrotechnician and firefighters, the complaint said.

According to the Justice Department, Choi faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted.

The charges come after Trevor Jacob, another YouTube personality, was sentenced to six months in December for an aviation stunt in California. Jacob staged an escape on camera from a small two-seater plane, jumped from the plane and purposefully left it to crash in the Los Padres National Forest, misleading National Transportation Safety Board officials who were investigating the crash, The Washington Post reported.

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