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12-Year-Old Colorado Boy On Life Support After TikTok 'Blackout Challenge' Has Died

colorado boy  joshua haileyesus brain dead tiktok blackout challenge died
Source: GOFUNDME

Apr. 15 2021, Updated 8:15 a.m. ET

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The 12-year-old Colorado boy who was left on life support after participating in a TikTok challenge last month has died.

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Joshua Haileyesus was discovered unconscious by his twin brother on the bathroom floor last after he took part in a challenge that has been circulating on TikTok, which encouraged people to record themselves holding their breath until they passed out. His brother tried to resuscitate him until an ambulance arrived. 

Haileyesus died after 19 days on life support, his family explained on a GoFundMe. "Joshua has gone off to be with the Lord," they wrote. 

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"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 update read. 

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 The GoFundMe raised almost $183,000 of its $200,000 goal to cover Haileyesus' medical expenses. 

The Blackout Challenge had been circulating on TikTok for some time now, but has been on social media for several years under different names such as the Passout Challenge, The Game of Choking, Speed Dreaming and The Fainting Game, according to his family. "Unbeknownst to his parents, Joshua had been playing this dangerous game completely unaware of the risks involved," the fundraiser read.

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"Everyone who knows Joshua can tell you what an incredibly intelligent, funny, caring, and gifted 12 year old he is," they wrote. The family said the boy had ambitions of becoming a pastor and also wanted to join the army when he grew up. 

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"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," they described of Haileyesus, who was the oldest of three brothers. His siblings "miss him very much and can only talk about bringing him home."

"I would never imagine my son would do such a thing," his father, Haileyesus Zeryihun, told KNCB. "I’m paying the price right now, I’m living the life, and I hate for other parents to go through this."

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"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," TikTok wrote in a statement last month, offering their "profound sympathies" to the family. "We also block related hashtags and searches to discourage people from participating in or sharing potentially dangerous content."

According to the Denver Post, the Aurora Police Department’s Crimes Against Children Unit is investigating the incident, which took place on March 22.

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