12-year-old dies weeks after attempting viral TikTok challenge, Colorado family says

Summer Lin
·2 min read

A 12-year-old Colorado boy has died weeks after choking himself for a viral “Blackout Challenge,” his family said.

Joshua Haileyesus of Aurora died on Tuesday after being hospitalized and spending 19 days on life support, CBS Denver reported. His family said he participated in the “Blackout Challenge” and choked himself with a shoelace.

“I would never imagine my son would do such a thing,” Joshua’s father, Haileyesus Zeryihun, told the TV station. “I’m paying the price right now, I’m living the life, and I hate for other parents to go through this.”

Joshua’s twin brother found him on Mar. 22 not breathing and unconscious, McClatchy News previously reported.

The “Blackout Challenge” is a social media trend that encourages participants to choke themselves until they pass out, according to The Denver Channel. Joshua saw the trend on TikTok and tried it himself before his brother found him, the Denver Channel reported.

The social media trend has been around for years — predating TikTok — and led to the deaths of dozens of children, including at least 82 from the years 1995 to 2007, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

A 14-year-old South Carolina teen died in 2016 after participating in the “choking” game— another name for the dangerous challenge, the Rock Hill Herald reported at the time.

Erik Robinson, a 12-year-old boy from Santa Monica, California, died in 2010 after his mother found him “slumped over in the doorway with his Boy Scouts rope, which he had used to practice knots, tied around his neck,” according to Time. Police reportedly listed his cause of death as “choking game.”

CDC officials say the trend is done with “ropes, scarves and belts” or other items tied to doorknobs or bedroom furniture.

The agency encourages health care providers, parents and educators to recognize the signs of the “choking game,” which involve discussing the activity, marks on the neck or bloodshot eyes.

TikTok challenge leaves 12-year-old Colorado boy ‘fighting’ for his life, family says