|Deadly game takes Last Chance boy’s life, Sheriff says
By ELIZABETH LADEN
Dalton Eby, 10, died Thursday, July 7 when he was playing a popular “game” among some area youth, Fremont County Sheriff Ralph Davis said Monday. The boy’s parents are Dave and Dede Eby, owner’s of Angler’s Lodge on the Henry’s Fork.
Speaking at the County Commission’s regular meeting at the courthouse in St. Anthony, Davis said Dalton was one of an untold number of young people “ages 7 to 17” who are playing the “choking game” in Fremont County and all over the country.
Davis told Commissioners Don Trupp, John Hess, and Bill Forbush that kids use their hands, ropes, or cloth ties to put pressure on their carotid arteries until they pass out, having cut off the blood supply to their brains. They do it for the “high or tingling sensation” they experience when the pressure is removed and they begin to regain consciousness, he said.
Davis ruled Eby’s death an accident, and although Davis said it appears that the boy was alone on property near his home, the incident is still being investigated. He said most likely Dalton passed out, was unable to release the rope he’d used to choke himself, and no other kids were around to help him.
Some commissioners and other county officials at the meeting noted that people in their generation and their children's’ generations have played versions of this game, and one person recalled that it had led to a fatality in Island Park many years ago.
Dalton was found around 7 a. m. Friday hanging from a tree with a rope around his neck that Davis said the kids who are involved in this activity had made to use in the so-called “game.”
His mother had reported him missing Thursday when he did not return home at a scheduled time. A Fremont County Search and Rescue report states that he had last been seen riding his bicycle at 5:30 p. m. in front of Angler’s Lodge. Search and Rescue members, as well as many local residents and summer home owners, searched for Dalton on foot, and with ATV’s, bicycles, and private vehicles. The search extended to campgrounds, subdivisions, side roads, river banks, and boat landings. Six search dogs — four from Montana and two from Wyoming — were called to assist.
Fremont County Deputy officer Thad Garner spotted a blue-and-white rope suspended from the upper limbs of a pine tree near the boy's home.
A Sheriff’s Department news release states, "Dalton was found with the rope looped around his neck. There was no sign of a struggle, nor was there any physical evidence to indicate anyone else had been at the scene."
Davis said he is encouraging area media to let the community know that children are playing this deadly game.
A report by Emily Halevy of the Connecting WIth Kids (CWK) Network quotes 20-year-old Sarah Johnson, who witnessed kids choking themselves. Johnson said, “It’s something that’s not talked about, it’s not well known, and there’s a lure to that. They call it ‘fainting each other.’”
Kids use bags, belts, ties, or even their own bare hands, causing hypoxia, a shortage of oxygen. The report says that some kids play the game for many hours at a time, passing out over and over again.
“Basically, it’s a very dangerous play where the person deprives his brain of oxygen,” explains Dr. Ashraf Attalla, child psychiatrist, in the CWK Network report. “By reducing the blood pressure, the brain basically starts an irreversible process of dying.”
The result can be permanent brain damage or even death.
Dr. Attalla said parents need to watch for clues, including any unusual marks around the neck. “Parents might find some ties, or ropes tied in unusual ways, complaints of headaches, blood shot eyes,” he noted.
He said some kids may be fascinated by this strange and dangerous play they can so easily hide from their parents.
Experts encourage parents to take away the mystery. Teach your kids that this is no game. “It’s a very, very dangerous practice,” says the doctor, “and I think the community and parents need to know about this.”
CWK Network writer Larry Eldridge’s research found that the choking game is just one instance of bad decision-making by individuals in an age group notorious for making bad decisions.
Still, a recent study of 2,500 teenagers by the Minneapolis Star Tribune found that students overall feel they make good decisions. Parents should talk to their children about what constitutes a good decision as well as discuss bad decisions, like playing the choking game, that are self destructive and potentially deadly, experts say.
The Tribune asked its readers if they ever made an important decision that changed their lives. Here are some of the findings — all good topics when parents discuss good decision making with their children:
• Life or death decisions. Students wrote about the decision to wear a seatbelt, take the keys from a drunk driver and ride in one car versus another. They wrote about their own reckless behavior, such as surviving a game of "chicken" with speeding sleds or snowmobiling over thin ice.
• Sports. Many students said the decision to participate in basketball or hockey, softball or track had a huge impact on who their friends were, and on their thoughts about their abilities, hopes and dreams.
• The Arts – Similarly, the decision to play a musical instrument, go to camp, or take dance or figure-skating lessons often changed students' lives. One student wrote the decision to cave in to his teasing friends cost him the enjoyment and enrichment of joining his high school choir.
• Families. Students wrote about making decisions that affect family life. Most common were heart-wrenching essays about having to decide which parent to live with after a divorce, or about deciding to break off relations with an absent or unreliable parent. Students also wrote about deciding to treat their families better, to cherish their siblings, or spend one more day with a dying grandparent.
• Friends. Some students were grateful for their friend choices, while others wrote about the difficult decision to break ties with friends they felt were leading them down the wrong path.
• Difficult Choices. From a surprisingly early age, students wrote about facing pressure to drink, smoke, use drugs or to have sex, from their peers and also from their elders. One girl wrote that her baby sitter asked her to join him in doing drugs. Many wrote about having a dreaded confrontation where someone asks them, "Do you want to … " and having to summon the courage to say, "No thanks." Others wrote about saying yes, and the impact it had on their lives as they struggle to quit smoking or stay clean and sober.