A South Carolina boy has become the latest child to die playing a dangerous "choking game" in which youngsters cut off their airways to get a sense of euphoria.
Garrett Pope Jr – described by his parents as a typical, happy 11-year-old boy – was found dead in his bedroom at his family's Indian Land home on Wednesday (31 August).
"He took this terrible 'game' too far," the boy's grief-stricken father wrote on Facebook on Friday.
Garrett Pope Sr and wife, Stacy, said they wanted to share details of their son's death as a warning to other children thinking of playing the "game".
The craze sees youngsters choke themselves until they pass out, with the intended effect to induce temporary euphoria by starving the brain of oxygen – something which can result in permanent damage or death.
Despite it already having been attributed to numerous fatalities over the years, youngsters continue to goad each other on by uploading films of themselves being choked to websites like YouTube and Facebook. Garret Sr said he wanted to share "some words of caution" following his family's own tragedy.
"We do not know where Garrett learned this, but the logical source would be from other kids in school or in our neighbourhood," he wrote. "Our tablets and computers show no online research. We know this was not intentional. He didn't know what he was doing. He just took this 'game' too far. We are crushed."
He added: "My family has never felt pain like this before, and we don't anyone else to go through what we are going through. Please talk about this with your kids, and do everything you can to prevent a similar tragedy. He was so young and impressionable, he didn't know what he was doing, and made a terrible mistake."
The Lancaster County Coroner's Office determined his son's death was accidental asphyxiation, the Rocky Hill Herald reported.
A 2008 report by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control of Disease (CDC) found that 82 children aged six to 19 had choked themselves to death with dog leashes, bungee cords, scarves and belts while playing the choking game between 1995 and 2007. Most were boys, at an average age of about 13.
The CDC encourages parents, educators and healthcare providers to familiarise themselves with signs of the game, which includes bloodshot eyes, marks on the neck and ropes, scarves or belts tied to bedroom furniture or doorknobs.
The "game" also goes by the name of "the blackout game," "pass-out game," "scarf game," and "the good boys' game", on account of it not involving the use of alcohol or drugs.