AURORA | A 12-year-old Aurora boy who went into a coma after participating in a viral TikTok challenge that goads people to choke themselves until they faint has died, his family said Tuesday evening.
The family of Joshua Haileyesus wrote on a GoFundMePage Tuesday evening that the boy, who was in critical condition after participating in the so-called “blackout challenge” in late March, had died after 19 days on life support. He died on April 10, the family clarified Wednesday.
“Joshua has gone off to be with the Lord,” the updated GoFundMe page read. “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.”
The message was also posted in Amharic. Haileyesus was the son of immigrant parents from Ethiopia.
As first reported by KCNC-TV, Haileyesus’ twin brother found him unconsciousness on the bathroom floor of their family home in Aurora on March 22. It was later determined he had participated in the provocation also known as “the pass out challenge,” ”speed dreaming” and “the fainting game.”
The family has implored parents to warn their children of participating in the challenge moving forward.
“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,” family members wrote on 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.”
In a statement to the Associated Press last month, TikTok representatives said the company is actively working to remove content related to the challenge from its platform and block related hashtags to discourage further participation.
The fundraising page said Haileyesus enjoyed playing soccer, guitar and preparing barbecued meals. He aspired to join the military and become a first responder, according to the page.
The fundraiser organized to now cover funeral and medical expenses had netted nearly $182,000 or its $200,000 goal as of Wednesday morning.
The public is invited to attend a church service commemorating Haileyesus at 10 a.m. at Colorado Community Church in Aurora on April 19. A public burial will be held later the same day at Olinger Mortuary on East Hampden Avenue in Denver at 1 p.m.