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12-year-old dies after 19 days on life support; family blames online ‘blackout challenge’

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Note: Video was taken before Joshua Haileyesus died.

AURORA, Colorado (KCNC) — A 12-year-old boy from Aurora has died more than two weeks after he was found unconscious at home. The family of Joshua Haileyesus believes he may have tried to choke himself with a shoelace while attempting the online “Blackout Challenge.”

The Blackout Challenge encourages children and teens on TikTok and YouTube to film themselves holding their breath or asphyxiating until they lose consciousness. Joshua’s family told CBS4 they want to raise awareness about the challenge to prevent other families from going through the same tragedy.

“I would never imagine my son would do such a thing,” said Joshua’s father, Haileyesus Zeryihun. “I’m paying the price right now, I’m living the life, and I hate for other parents to go through this.”

Joshua ended up in a coma and died on Tuesday after 19 days on life support. Family members say he loved video games and soccer and had an interest in the army. Zeryihun said his son was also a promising young speaker who could have become a pastor.

A GoFundMe has raised more than $181,000 for the family.

Joshua Haileyesus

Joshua Haileyesus | KCNC

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