12-year-old Colorado boy dies after trying viral ‘blackout challenge’

AURORA, Colo. — A 12-year-old Colorado boy died nearly three weeks after participating in a viral social media game known as the “Blackout Challenge.”

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Joshua Eyasu Haileyesus, of Aurora, died Saturday, according to his obituary, which was published online by Olinger Hampden Mortuary & Cemetery in Denver. The boy had been on life support for 19 days, KDVR reported. The boy had been unresponsive at Children’s Hospital Colorado after attempting the trend he discovered on TikTok, while he and his twin brother were home alone, KMGH reported.

“After fighting the good fight on life support for 19 days, Joshua has gone off to be with the Lord,” an update on the family’s GoFundMe page said. “Your prayers and your love have comforted us and we are grateful for your support.”

The Blackout Challenge encourages children and teens on TikTok and YouTube to film themselves holding their breath or asphyxiating until they pass out, KCNC reported. Haileyesus’ family told the television station they wanted to raise awareness about the challenge to prevent other families from experiencing the same tragedy.

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

The game also goes by other names, including the “Passout Challenge,” “The Game of Choking,” “The Fainting Game” and “Speed Dreaming.”

>> As if somebody is holding a gun’: What parents need to know about the viral ‘Blackout Challenge’

TikTok expressed sympathy for the boy and his family, The Associated Press reported.

“At TikTok, we have no higher priority than protecting the safety of our community, and content that promotes or glorifies dangerous behavior is strictly prohibited and promptly removed to prevent it from becoming a trend on our platform,” the company said in a statement last month.

Joshua Haileyesus was found struggling to breathe on the bathroom floor in late March, KDVR reported. His twin brother attempted to revive him before first responders arrived at the home, the television station reported. According to KMGH, the particular variety Joshua Haileyesus attempted involved using household items, and his brother did not find him until he had been unconscious for several minutes.

Joshua Haileyesus’ parents told KMGH that he frequently used social media with positive effects, including expanding his passions for cooking, guitar and acting. They cautioned other parents, however, to take online challenges seriously.

“It’s not a joke at all. And you can treat it as if somebody is holding a gun,” Haileyesus Zeryihun told the television station last month. “This is how dangerous this is.”

On Tuesday, Joshua Haileyesus’ parents wrote that their son “has gone off to be with the Lord.”

“To everyone who has prayed relentlessly and shared our burden during this trying time, we thank you,” the family said. “Your prayers and your love have comforted us and we are grateful for your support.”

A funeral service is scheduled from Monday at Colorado Community Church, according to the boy’s obituary.

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