California Boy, 12, Dies Playing 'Choking Game'

Erik Robinson accidently strangled himself with a rope to achieve brief high.

April 29, 2010, 4:33 PM

April 30, 2010— -- A 12-year-old California boy was strangled by a rope in his family's kitchen, apparently the latest victim of a teen fad known as "The Choking Game."

Police say Erik Robinson, a sixth grader from Santa Monica, accidently killed himself while playing the "choking game," a deadly pastime in which children cut off the flow of blood and oxygen to the brain to experience a momentary euphoric buzz.

Robinson, a popular 'tween known at school for often wearing sunglasses, hanged himself using a rope on the evening of April 20. When paramedics arrived following a 911call, the boy was in cardiac arrest. He was taken to the hospital and removed from life support the next day.

"He wanted to be in the military. That was his dream. There were a bunch of rumors, but I don't know why he did the choking game," Alia Moural, a fellow student at Lincoln Middle School, told ABC News affiliate KABC.

"We were thinking about the choking game and now since we kind of know for sure, we're talking about why he did it," Mourali said. "It was a bad decision."

Police said they believe Robinson's death was an accident and not a suicide.

"The Santa Monica Police Department is investigating this incident as an accidental death," said Sgt. Jay Trisler in a statement. "Preliminary information reveals that the accidental death may have been as a result of the juvenile engaging in the 'Choking Game.'"

As more children die playing the game -- played alone, in pairs, or as a group -- doctors are increasingly learning of its popularity and sounding an alarm to parents to be on the lookout. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 82 children died playing the game from 1995 to 2007.

A recent survey in the Journal of Pediatrics published in January found nearly a third of 162 doctors surveyed, 32 percent, had never heard of the choking game. A quarter of those who responded could not identify a single physical warning sign of a child's participation in the game, such as bruising around the neck, headaches and bloodshot eyes.

Also known as "blackout," "rocket ride," "flatliner," and "the fainting game" the game is typically played by adolescents and young teenagers.

According to the CDC, most of those who died were between the ages of 11 and 16. Boys are more likely to die from the choking game than girls, and nearly all who died were playing alone when they died.

"I know that the choking game exists, but with the limited time allowed for health visits, it's hard to cover all high risk behaviors," American Academy of Pediatrics spokeswoman Dr. Alanna Levine, previously told ABC News. "That being said, it is important to touch on the subject and perhaps research such as this study will remind pediatricians to add it to the conversations."

She added that doctors and parents should not wait for warning signs before discussing the dangers of the choking game with kids.Dan Childs of the ABC News Medical Unit contributed to this report.

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