After nearly three weeks on life support, a 12-year-old boy died on Saturday after taking part in a risky TikTok challenge.
Joshua Haileyesus was found unconscious on March 22 after choking himself in a TikTok challenge known as the “Blackout Challenge,” “Passout Challenge,” “The Game of Choking,” “Speed Dreaming,” or “The Fainting Game,” according to his family.
Before his passing, the Colorado teen was on life support for 19 days.
The family shared, “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.”
Joshua’s family added, “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. Everyone who knows Joshua can tell you what an incredibly intelligent, funny, caring, and gifted 12-year-old he is. Together with his twin brother, he would learn and master new hobbies out of pure curiosity and drive.”
They added, “Whether it was playing soccer, barbecuing sophisticated meals (better than any adult in our family can), practicing professional photography, experimenting with 3D modeling software, learning the ins-and-outs of acting including screen-writing and costume design, playing guitar, and planning his future of joining the Army before becoming a First Responder, Joshua has an excitement and passion for growing and learning.”
The family continued, “Beyond his tenacity for knowledge, Joshua has a love for people that you wouldn’t expect in a child. Since he was very young, he always expressed compassion for others. He would pray for people who were sick, stand up for others who were bullied at school, and practice CPR in case he ever needed to save someone else’s life.”
Joshua was discovered “breathless on the bathroom floor by his twin brother who tried to resuscitate him until neighbors and the ambulance arrived.”
Doctors intubated the 12-year-old and told his relatives that “his chance for survival is extremely unlikely.”
“Doctors told me the bad news that he’s not going to survive, he’s not going to make it,” Joshua’s father Haileyesus Zeryihun told Fox19 Now. “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.”
According to Joshua’s GoFundMe page, the “Blackout Challenge” has “been around for years,” but it has only recently gained attention on TikTok. People are challenged to choke themselves unconscious before they pass out.
“I don’t know why people would do such things,” Zeryihun continued. “This is not a joke. This is not a thing to play with.”
According to the Associated Press, TikTok expressed its “profound sympathies” to the boy and his family last month.
The company said in a statement, “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.”
Other parents were warned about the challenge by the family.
“We are also concerned for other families who, like ourselves, may not be aware of the existence of the Blackout Challenge and others like it,” they wrote on the GoFundMe. “We urge the community to spend awareness about Joshua and the real risks involved in not having knowledge of what kinds of activities children are involved in.”