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Colorado Boy, 12, Dies 19 Days After Choking Himself in ‘Blackout Challenge’ Found on TikTok

Naledi Ushe
·4-min read

gofundme

A 12-year-old boy died on Saturday after nearly three weeks of being on life support after participating in a dangerous TikTok challenge.

Joshua Haileyesus was discovered unconscious on March 22 after choking himself in a challenge on TikTok known as the "Blackout Challenge," "Passout Challenge", "The Game of Choking", "Speed Dreaming" or "The Fainting Game," his family revealed on a GoFundMe page created to help with his hospital and funeral expenses.

The Colorado boy spent 19 days on life support before his death.

"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 GoFundMe page stated.

gofundme

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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," the family shared.

"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," they added.

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."

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According to the page, Joshua was found "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 revealed to his family at the time 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."

The "Blackout Challenge" has "been around for years," according to Joshua's GoFundMe page, but it recently gained traction on TikTok. In the challenge, people are dared to choke themselves until they are unconscious.

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"I don't know why people would do such things," Zeryihun told Fox19 Now. "This is not a joke. This is not a thing to play with."

TikTok extended its "profound sympathies" to the boy and his family last month, according to the Associated Press.

"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.

The family cautioned other parents to be aware of the challenge.

"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."

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The Aurora Police Crimes Against Children's Unit is investigating the facts and circumstances of a case involving Joshua, the department confirms to PEOPLE.

The investigation is ongoing and there is no additional information available at this time.

A representative for TikTok did not immediately respond to PEOPLE's request for comment.