DENVER (AP) — A 12-year-old boy from suburban Denver is in critical condition after his family believes he tried a TikTok challenge that dares people to choke themselves until they lose consciousness.
Joshua Haileyesus’ twin brother found him passed out in the bathroom of the Aurora, Colorado, family’s home March 22, and doctors have told relatives the boy is brain dead, KCNC-TV reported.
“Told me the bad news that he’s not going to survive, he’s not going to make it,” said Joshua’s father, Haileyesus Zeryihun. “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.”
On Monday, a group gathered in front of Children’s Hospital Colorado in Aurora to pray for the boy, who is on life support.
“He’s a fighter. I can see him fighting. I’m praying for him every day,” Zeryihun said. “It’s just heartbreaking to see him laying on the bed.”
The father said that a few days before his son was found unconscious, he bragged to his brother about being able to hold his breath for a minute. The family hopes their story will inspire others to talk about any games or challenges that could cause serious injury.
The television station reported Joshua loves soccer and video games, but he stood out because of his passion for the Army. He also showed early signs that he would make a great church pastor.
A statement released by TikTok on Tuesday expressed “profound sympathies” for the boy and his family.
“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 statement read. “We also block related hashtags and searches to discourage people from participating in or sharing potentially dangerous content.”
A search on TikTok for #blackoutchallenge on Tuesday afternoon did not return any results, and a note said the phrase may be associated with behavior or content that violates the site’s guidelines.