10-year-old boy dies after playing 'choking game'

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Associated Press

Posted on April 4, 2012 at 9:00 AM

Updated Wednesday, Apr 4 at 4:55 PM

KETCHUM, Idaho -- A 10-year-old boy in southern Idaho died from self-inflicted strangulation after playing a "choking game," a coroner determined.

Austin Rasmussen of Dietrich was home alone in his bedroom at the time, said Lincoln County Deputy Coroner Mike Bright. Emergency medical personnel worked on the boy for about 45 minutes before he was pronounced dead shortly before 6 p.m., Bright said.

"What had happened was Austin strangled himself playing the choking game and was unable to recover," Bright told the Idaho Mountain Express. "This game is very deadly. There have been a lot of kids die from this. It should not be played at all."

So-called choking games, sometimes called fainting games, involve intentionally shutting off the supply of oxygen to the brain with the goal of producing a temporary euphoria. The choking can be accomplished by ropes, sheets, collars, hands or even by hanging.

The coroner declined to discuss what method Rasmussen used to strangle himself.

"He was not playing with other kids," Bright said. "He was the only one in his room. Without other people being present, it's difficult to come back."

Rasmussen apparently heard about the choking game from older students at his school, where he was a fourth-grader, the coroner said. Dietrich School Superintendent and Principal Neal Hollingshead was in a meeting early Wednesday and did not immediately return a phone call from The Associated Press.

An organization founded by families of choking game victims, called Games Adolescents Shouldn't Play, or GASP, has members in the United States and Canada. The group estimates thousands of children die or suffer permanent brain damage from playing choking games each year.

In Idaho, Bright urged parents to talk to their children about the dangers of participating such activities.

"It's quite common in bigger areas. It's such a strange deal, though, for southern Idaho," Bright said.

In nearby Blaine County, sheriff Gene Ramsey said the only similar incident he could recall was 10 years ago, when a man died in Hailey after choking himself with a dog collar. The collar was supposed to release the man once he passed out, but it didn't.

Funeral services for Rasmussen have been scheduled for 2 p.m. Friday at an LDS Church in Dietrich. A fundraiser to benefit his family has been scheduled for Thursday at the Lincoln County Community Center.

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