A South Carolina boy has accidentally killed himself while playing the “choking game,” a deadly trend believed to be behind the deaths of dozens of American children over the last several years, officials and his devastated family said.
Garrett Pope Jr., 11, was found dead in his bedroom Wednesday after apparently playing the game, in which a person cuts off their airwaves to get a euphoric rush.
“Please know that his senseless death was not intentional. He took this terrible ‘game’ too far,” his father, Garrett Pope Sr., wrote on Facebook.
The sixth grader’s death was caused by accidental asphyxiation, the Lancaster County Coroner’s Office told InsideEdition.com.
After the boy’s death, his heartbroken parents scoured their computers, looking for signs that their son had looked into the “game.”
“Our tablets and computers show no online research that he might have done,” Pope Sr. wrote, saying his son may have learned about the fad from other children either at school or in his Indian Land neighborhood.
He urged other parents to do everything in their power to keep their children safe from the dangerous “game,” writing: “Please talk about this with your kids, and do everything you can to prevent a similar tragedy… My family has never felt pain like this before, and we don’t [want] anyone else to go through what we are going through.”
From 1995 to 2007, at least 82 children from 6 to 19 had choked themselves with belts, scarves, dog leashes and bungee cords while playing the choking game, a 2008 report by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control found.
Of the 82 children killed playing what is also referred to as the “blackout game,” “pass-out game” and “space monkey,” 71 — more than 86 percent — were boys, at an average age of about 13, the CDC reported.
Garrett’s funeral will be held 6 p.m. Tuesday at The Chapel of Burgess Funeral Home, his obituary said. His family will receive friends prior to the service from 4-6 p.m.
In the meantime, his grief-stricken family said they will do whatever it takes to prevent another senseless tragedy.
“He was our oldest son, a 6th grade student at the middle school, had just started to play football on Tuesday night, wanted to go to Clemson, was funny, smart, and an amazing son to us and brother to his siblings,” Pope Sr. wrote.
“He was so young and impressionable, he didn’t know what he was doing, and made a terrible mistake. We miss him.”