Boy Dies After Suspected 'Blackout Challenge' Attempt Left Him on Life Support

A 12-year-old boy has died nearly three weeks after his family said he participated in a social media "blackout challenge" in which people choke themselves until they lose consciousness.

Joshua Haileyesus, of Aurora, Colorado, had been on life support since his twin brother found him unconscious on the bathroom floor on March 22.

The family believed he was trying to choke himself with a shoelace as part of a social media challenge, also known as the "passout challenge," in which people film themselves holding their breath or asphyxiating until they lose consciousness and then post the video online.

The family is hoping to raise awareness about the potentially deadly game to others following what happened to Joshua.

"I would never imagine my son would do such a thing," Joshua's father, Haileyesus Zeryihun, told CBS Denver.

"I'm paying the price right now, I'm living the life, and I hate for other parents to go through this."

The family confirmed the death of the 12-year-old boy on Tuesday in a statement on a GoFundMe page set up after he was first admitted to the hospital, which has since gone on to raise more than $180,000.

"We would like to update everyone that this evening, after fighting the good fight on life support for 19 days, Joshua has gone off to be with the Lord," the family said.

"To everyone who has prayed relentlessly and shared our burden during this trying time, we thank you. Your prayers and your love have comforted us and we are grateful for your support. We will be sharing funeral arrangements in the coming days for those who are interested in attending."

The doctors previously warned the family to prepare for the worst after the 12-year-old was found to be brain dead.

"Told me the bad news that he's not going to survive, he's not going to make it," the father told local television station KCNC in March. "I was begging them on the floor, pleading to see if they can give me some time, not to give up on him. If I just give up on him, I feel like I'm just walking away from my son."

Anne Auld, director of education with the nonprofit child safety organization Illuminate Colorado, said the fact that children are susceptible to online influences has only been exaggerated during the pandemic.

"We have kids right now, their social connections are happening online and through social media," Auld told The Denver Post. "That is a place that can be both beneficial and dangerous."

The Aurora Police Department's Crimes Against Children Unit said it was investigating the incident in March.

"We are still conducting interviews and gathering evidence," Matt Longshore said.
"We are keeping the family in our thoughts and prayers right now."

The Aurora Police Department has been contacted for an update.

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In this photo illustration, the social media application logo, Tik Tok is displayed on the screen of an iPhone on March 05, 2019 in Paris, France. A 12-year-old boy has died nearly three weeks after his family said he participated in a social media "blackout challenge." Chesnot/Getty Images