Child dies playing The Choking Game, parents share warning signs

INDIAN LAND, South Carolina -- The parents of an 11-year-old South Carolina boy who died playing "The Choking Game," have spoken out about their son's accidental death with the hope it could help other families.

"People need to know about this," Garrett Pope Sr. told WBTV. "It's senseless. We need to speak up."

Garrett Pope Jr.'s mother left her middle school honors student home alone while she ran errands with her other children. When they returned home, Garrett was dead. A belt was wrapped around his neck.

"He didn't do it on purpose," his dad said. "He made a terrible mistake."

Children play "The Choking Game" to reach a euphoria state brought about by the initial suffocation and later when air and blood flow resumes. Sometimes children use their hands, other times it's done with belt or ropes, WBTV reported.

"It cuts the blood flow to the brain directly just by pressure," Dr. Debbie Greenhouse, a South Carolina pediatrician, told WBTV. "But also just by pressure by changing the pressure to the big blood vein through the neck. Once the blood flow to the brain is decreased, brain cells start to die. So the end result of that is if enough brain cells decrease for a long enough period of time the child can die."

Looking back, Garrett's mom Stacy said there were warning signs.

"He had marks on his neck," she said. "He would come home and his neck would be all red."

When asked about the marks, Stacy said her son told her he and his friends had been wrestling.

The Popes said they wanted to share their story parents would talk to their children about the dangers of "The Choking Game."