Family’s anguish as son, 14, dies while playing ‘choking game’ as deadly internet craze sweeps America
By SNEJANA FARBEROV
A risky game teenagers play to get high has claimed the life of a 14-year-old boy from Salem, Indiana, last week, according to authorities.
The coroner has determined that Isaiah Shell died last Friday from accidental positional asphyxiation as a result of the choking game.
Isaiah should have started his first day of eighth grade at Salem Middle School on Thursday. Instead, his heart-broken parents were left planning his funeral, according to the station WLKY.
‘He never would have ever wanted any of us to hurt like we hurt,’ said the victim’s mother, Maggie Shell. ‘I know this wasn’t something he meant to do.’
Experts said the deadly game, which has become an Internet craze thanks to numerous video demonstrations posted online, involves intentionally trying to choke oneself to attain a brief and intense high produced when oxygen intake is decreased.
‘I’ve heard of it, but I never thought someone like Isaiah would ever play that game,’ Isaiah’s sister, Rhonda Shell, told WLKY.
According to the victim’s mother, her son got the idea to play the risky game after watching a video sent to him by a friend.
‘Whoever is putting this stuff [online], they need to stop it,’ Mrs Shell she said.
Long-time family friend Rita Lincks has described Isaiah as a ‘good kid’ who was always friendly and polite.
‘I just think he got in bad situation and couldn’t get out. It was just very very sad,’ Lincks told the station WHAS.
Lincks, who owns a clothing store, has designed T-shirts to educate parents and kids about the dangers of the choking game and use the proceeds to help the grieving family with their son’s final expenses.
The 14-year-old was discovered in the basement of his home on North Hayes Avenue by a family member at around 7:35pm on Friday, according to WBIW.
On Friday, Coroner Rondale Brishaber has ruled the death accidental, resulting from asphyxiation. No autopsy was performed on the victim.
Brishaber said when teens play the choking game, they are often alone, and there is no one to relieve the pressure and the child’s own body weight continues to tighten the ligature, usually leading to death.
The Dangerous Behaviors Foundation, Inc, started in 2006 to raise awareness of the choking game, says there’s no way to determine accurately the number of deaths linked to the dangerous practice because no public health agency tracks them.
However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data indicates that between 800 and 1,000 kids between the ages of 10 and 19 die of strangulation each year.
The choking game is especially common among middle school students. Survey data indicate boys and girls are equally likely to participate in groups, but boys are more likely to attempt it along.
The DM Foundation indicates that in 2011, 82 per cent of choking game victims were male. Nearly half of them used a belt as ligature, and the vast majority of incidents occured between the hours of 6 PM and midnight.
A recent study, which surveyed more than 5,000 Oregon eighth graders, revealed that six per cent – or one in 16 – had played ‘the choking game’ at least once.
‘The more times you repeat something like this, the better the chance of a bad outcome,’ said Robert Nystrom, from the Oregon Public Health Division in Portland, who worked on the study.
Statistics show that 86 per cent of parents reported not knowing about the choking game prior to their child’s involvement.
As of November of 2011, 473 incidents involving self-asphyxiation among teenagers have taken place nationwide.
According to the community support site GASP (Games Adolescents Shouldn’t Play), the choking game has claimed five young lives in the U.S. so far this year.