The Choking Game

Charles,

I am hoping you can help me keep a promise.

On Thursday May 17th, 2012, just as I began another night shift as patrol sergeant, I was called to an apparent suicide in the Town of Sutton, Ontario. 26 plus years of doing this job has brought me to many of these, none of them easy to deal with. There was no way for me to know that this one would be different.

Upon arrival I spoke to the officers who had already arrived and the detectives, who had shown up just prior to me. A young man, just 18 years old, had been found in his backyard shed hanging, with a noose around his neck. The cause of death was all but apparent, and the dark reality of teenage suicide had again come to pass. These are never easy for anyone. Some of the family had arrived back home, and were reeling in the shock and disbelief and grief and a thousand emotions, trying to make some sense of an incomprehensible situation.

Within a couple minutes, a truck pulled up. It was his dad, Ed. He was brought home by a friend, and he came home to his worst nightmare. We throw around terms like “devastated”, “ anguished”, and “completely distraught”, but what I saw that day there are no words for. I saw a man completely torn apart by the inexplicable sudden loss of his son. As a father of teenagers, my heart bled for him. He so desperately wanted to see his son, but we couldn’t allow it. As the detectives went about their tasks and awaited the coroner, family, friends and neighbours came to the house in efforts to console the inconsolable.  Ed and his wife Kelly’s world was turned inside out. And they like us were searching for the one missing answer that might provide some understanding. The answer to “why?”. Why did Kyle Ehinger do this?

Charles this was a nice, quiet neighbourhood, full of working people, some retirees. Nice houses with big lots, nice cars in the driveways. Rarely are we ever called to this area for anything of a serious nature. The “why” wasn’t making sense.  It was the Thursday before the “May two-four” weekend, and like lots of 18 year olds, Kyle had plans. His cell phone messages showed that he had been texting friends about the weekend, who could take who’s quad with them, and how he would pick up his girlfriend on Friday and off they would go. Kyle had lots of friends. He was the captain of his rugby team. He was what we would call “a good kid”. He went to a good school, and by dad’s account, was a workaholic. He was gifted in things mechanical, landing him a job at a local garage where he could show his talent. His Dodge pick-up was his pride and joy, 4 wheel drive and lifted suspension, so he could go mudding with his friends. Yes, his truck was there in front of the house…half full of firewood for the trip, part of a coffee and a sandwich still on the tailgate. Nowhere could be found a note or sign as to why he might do this. The “why” made even less sense.

The coroner came, and set to his work. All indications were as they appeared, and as the coroner spoke to the family, the removal service came to take Kyle away. After placing him on the gurney, he was escorted across the yard in front of the ever growing number of bereaved friends and neighbours. As the gurney stopped in front of the van, his dad came up to the body bag that carried his son, and hugged it with an emotion that I hope no one ever has to experience, and it is one to which script can do no justice.  As he embraced the end of the bag that contained the remains of his beloved son, his simple request was “Please tell me this is his head”. As we nodded in affirmation, he continued to hug. He wanted to be anywhere but there, he wanted Kyle to be anywhere but there. I saw a man who would have absolutely and without question done ANYTHING to change what had happened. The pain of not being able to change it must have been worst of all. The internal drive to protect his child had been negated by one quick and inexplicable act.

As I cleared the scene, I noticed the lawn and street in front of the house were full of young people Kyle’s age. The grief was obvious, and they too wanted the “why”. Upon getting in my truck, I saw a text message on my phone. It was from my 16 year old daughter. It read, “dad, did kyle ehinger die tonite?”. 

So many times, I have tried not to take work home, to insulate my kids from the stuff that kids shouldn’t have to think about. This time, home came to my work. My daughter also knew him, went to the same school as Kyle.  After a deep breath or two, I texted back, “yes, sorry hon”. And like Kyle’s dad I wanted to be there to hug her and protect her, but I couldn’t. Kyle’s loss was stretching further and affecting an ever widening part of the community. 

The following day at his school showed the scope of Kyle’s influence. Teachers and students alike were in a state of disbelief and sadness. With flags at half mast, classes were but a façade. And they too, wanted the “why”. Why would this happen to Kyle? Was it something at school?

As the community prepared for his farewell, the answer to the “why” came from the coroner’s office. The post mortem examination showed that this was not the first time that a rope had been around Kyle’s neck. He had done it many times before. Kyle didn’t want to die. He didn’t mean to kill himself. He was playing what they call, “The Choking Game”, cutting off the flow of oxygen to the brain, potentially causing unconsciousness. The temporary loss of blood flow to the brain causes light headedness, and the rush of blood and oxygen back to the brain when the choking stops gives a temporary “high”. But this time, the choking didn’t stop. Within seconds Kyle would have been unable to stop “the game”. The result was fatal, tragic, and so unnecessary, so wasteful of a life full of potential. When Kyle lost “the game”, a huge part of the community lost “the game”. He didn’t mean to die.

Some game. This is no game. I always thought that when you lost playing a game, you got the chance to play again. Losing at this game offers no replays, and everyone loses for years to come. It destroys lives in so many ways.    

As chance would have it, I would also be working the day of Kyle’s funeral. A procession of hundreds of vehicles made their way to the church, following behind Kyle’s pride and joy, his big white Dodge, which carried Kyle’s casket to the service. I have to admit that I was concerned about what might come to pass with this number of cars, Kyle’s friends in their lifted trucks, hundreds of teens. Their conduct was nothing less than exemplary, showing a great deal of respect for their community and for Kyle’s memory. I think it goes to demonstrate the legacy of Kyle’s nature.

Last Saturday I saw Ed at a baseball tournament. My mind flashed back to when I had first seen him, and I hurt for him all over again. I walked up to him very tentatively and with an outstretched hand asked, “How’s it going?”. After a brief pause and a firm handshake, with a look in his eye that said it all, he replied’ “Sh*tty.”. We talked for a good 15 minutes, and he described how he felt about how Kyle died, how the smallest thing can bring it all back. He said that he had spoken to lots of Kyle’s friends, Kyle didn’t do drugs, wasn’t a drinker, loved his truck and his friends and working . Kyle died getting high another way. A way which probably seemed harmless…no cost, no drug dealers, no hangovers. Heck he had done it so many times before, why should this time be different? But it was so much different.

Ed’s eyes then turned into a look of steeled and desperate determination.  “People have to know about this. This can’t happen again. No one should have to go through this. He was a good kid. This message has to get out there”.

I looked him in the eye, and told him that maybe I could help. I told him I would write about it, and talk to some people I know, maybe they could help too.

I promised him that I would help. Help him and maybe we could save a few lives.

We’ll do it for Kyle.

He was a good kid.

Rob

34 thoughts on “The Choking Game

  1. What a tremendously, senseless loss for our community… and the world.
    Thank you Rob – for keeping your promise. You just might save someone.

    • Vote -1
    • Vote +1
    Kassie dowdall Lini on

    Kyle your smile lives on with the stories they tell of you…..always in our hearts and never forgotten xoxo

    • +1
    • Vote -1
    • Vote +1
    Lenora Brown on

    Thank you for telling Kyle’s story so well. It is a message that so many teens need to hear. His passing was a great loss to many including some of my own family and neighbours.
    I hope many of his friends and school chums will think twice before they engage in ANY risky behavior.

  2. Thank you Rob for putting the tragic passing of Kyle Ehinger into perspective. Too many times, society is quick to pass judgement when it comes to teen deaths. As I read your article, it brought instant tears to my eyes as I am the mother of two young children and pray that they will not have the chance to experience this sometimes fatal addiction. I just pray that anyone who reads this and knows of anyone including themselves who play the “choking game” will realize it’s not worth the risk.
    I am also like a mom to one of Kyle’s friends and she to this day still thinks about the whatifs. All I can do, is be there for her and help her to grieve when she needs someone to talk to.
    My heart and prayers go out to Kyle’s family and friends.

    Thank you again Rob, your article was so touching yet purposeful.

    • +1
    • Vote -1
    • Vote +1
    Ann Holland on

    I live in the community that has been devistated and shocked by Kyle’s death. What an absolute tragedy. I can only imagine the pain felt by Kyle’s parents, friends and family. By all accounts, a wonderful young man raised by a caring family. What a horrible loss. The first thing I did when I learned of the circumstances, was speak to my own 20 year old son and to make a phone call to my sister who has two boys the same age as Kyle. If I can do nothing else for Mr and Mrs Ehinger, I can do what they have asked…pass on the message~let there be no more grieving parent by this senseless game.

  3. I never knew Kyle but a lot of my friends did :( and it is just not right to see a lot of these young people pass away in such a way that can be prevented by just not doing it ! I hope no one ever does this ! Rest in paradise Kyle ! <3

    • Vote -1
    • Vote +1
    joel smith on

    my heart goes out to this family we lost our son skyler to this deadly game on may 30,2011 it was and still is the most horrific thing we have ever had to go through you must stand up and fight to make this stop remember you will never move on but you will move forward our thoughts and prayers are with you all

    • +1
    • Vote -1
    • Vote +1
    Annette Latouf on

    I’m sorry to hear about Kyle story and my prayers goes out to his family. I too lost my son to this damn game on July 17, 2011. Us Canadians needs to get the word out and get it out fast! I never heard of the game until the police told me his cause of death!

    • Vote -1
    • Vote +1
    Jenny Sorrell on

    i didnt know about the choking game till my ex boyfriends furneral.. when his mom took me out side and told me. i was so confused like why would someone want to do this? like didnt he know the risk.. i still cant believe this happin and i wait for him to log on to msn or facebook every day.. i miss him so much he had a bright future now nothing.. his name was Justin Wojdan-Latouf

  4. I almost couldn’t make it through the post, but I did and you need to get this out to be a public service announcement. Schools need to educate parents and explain to tens it is Russian roulette. My son had done it many times before, he was having headaches and his eyes would bother him. It was explained away as allergies and being a go-get-em football player. Even a mark under his ear was attributed to possible football, a badge of honor. But what they were really, Side effects to this activity. We had no clue about. Blindsided by all of it. How were all the people who knew children unaware of the tell tell signs? Why didn’t they put it all together? Why? How did it never come up as a question? We asked questions, but were given wrong answers only because none of the people put it all together. We don’t blame anyone, we just want to know why a warning isn’t out there! Now when my husband, family, and I ask that question we are told that it would entice curious kids to try it. Are you kidding me? Tell people it kills! Tell them it can leave a survivor with life long disabilities. Tell them its not a high its death!
    … Please use your status and authority to get public service announcements out to schools and parents on tv and all media. I hate that it is labeled a game when it is a killer. Our son Joshua Engle was 13 and a good kid, honor roll, sports and active in church youth. Our site is http://WildFarmKids.com and I would like to repost your story on it. Please let us know if that is ok. Blessings from Iowa,
    Wendi Engle

    • +1
    • Vote -1
    • Vote +1
    Christine Cyr on

    Thank you for writing this story, it is one that needs to be addressed very seriously. Like all kids and others killed playing this deadly game, they were good people. I have spoken to my teenage boy about this game in the past but will again remind him of the dangers with this wonderfully heartfelt rendition you have written.

    Thank you

    • Vote -1
    • Vote +1
    Chad Engle on

    Thank you for writing this, I know this story all to well as it happened to our family too. My son was only 13 but as active in life as ever. Active in sports, church, 4H and a brother to his five other siblings. The heart of our family destroyed by a game. You explained it well. It is a game no one ever wins. The prize is headaches and itchy eyes or marks and bruises on the necks of children. Some kids don’t die, but they are disabled from the brain damage. Please use your resources to educate the country. Not a three minute news broadcast but a repeated public service announcement commercial. If we would have know to say its deadly and not a game, I know our son would still be with us.
    Thank you for writing this,
    Blessings from Iowa,
    Chad Engle father of Joshua Engle
    http://WildFarmKids.com

    • Vote -1
    • Vote +1
    Wendi Engle on

    Rob, your story and accounts are so important for people to hear. We ask “Why?” All the time. This is a good start for awareness and the ripple you wrote of starts a wave of education. Thank you for sharing. Thank you from all the parents of children taken by the activity.
    … Wendi Engle
    http://wildfarmkids.com

      • +1
      • Vote -1
      • Vote +1
      Chad Engle on

      Thank you for writing this, I know this story all to well as it happened to our family too. My son was only 13 but as active in life as ever. Active in sports, church, 4H and a brother to his five other siblings. The heart of our family destroyed by a game. You explained it well. It is a game no one ever wins. The prize is headaches and itchy eyes or marks and bruises on the necks of children. Some kids don’t die, but they are disabled from the brain damage. Please use your resources to educate the country. Not a three minute news broadcast but a repeated public service announcement commercial. If we would have know to say its deadly and not a game, I know our son would still be with us.
      Thank you for writing this,
      Blessings from Iowa,
      Chad Engle ~ father of Joshua Engle
      http://WildFarmKids.com

  5. Thank you. We have talked to our four kids about this before and I will show them this. I am from sutton myself my famiy grew up in sutton and it does happen everywhere. Thank you again for sharing for the love of all our kids! My heart is with the family.

    • +1
    • Vote -1
    • Vote +1
    Dawn Dawson on

    My son also died from playing the choking game, in Saskatoon. On october 14, 2011, my husband found our 13 year old son unresponsive in his bathroom at 515pm. At 615pm, the doctor pronounce our son dead. within the week of zach’s death, we hit facebook very quickly and our message hit across canada. we were on John Gormley in saskatoon radio, we had an article in the Globe and Mail. apparently, not enough to get awareness out there. I am about the mail Dr. Phil as he seems to want to educate people about dangers of things we do in society, educating parents(involved parents) can save a childs life. I’m not so sure on children when the parents really don’t care and wouldn’t make the efforts to do what they needed to do. Children who play the choking game, have involved parents. Our son was a goalie since timbits hockey (he was a bantam player), played kinsmen football for two years, in fact Kelly Bowers attending zach’s funeral, and kelly had a heart attack the week before.

    educating parents, this WILL SAVE LIVES. Our son wouldn’t have done this if he was educated, by us, on the dangers of what could happen. We had never heard of this game before.

    my son’s website is http://www.zacharydawson.ca which includes links to the work we have started. I will be entering the saskatoon school board system in the fall to continue education.

    I’m sad to hear they didn’t get our message, more needs to be done.

    Thank-you for providing information to educate more parents.

    Regards,
    Dawn Dawson,
    Mom to zach in heaven, and kaitlyn and xander here on earth

    • Vote -1
    • Vote +1
    SHARI WHITEHEAD on

    I found my son hanging in the basement, not a sight, I will ever forget. He was being scouted to play basketball in the states. that was his life. He was 16. He was extremely well liked. Good kid. Good marks. No problems, except I noticed various signs, like his headaches, bloodshot eyes, marks on the neck and his highs. I asked him if he was on drugs, as I was noticing different moods. He had a Big Brother, from The Big Brother’s Association, as I was a single parent, I felt he needed this interaction. I discussed this with his Big Brother, who in turn tried to get some answers, unfortunately everything came too late. A note I found in his closet said if I die before I wake, I’m sorry, I never meant for this to happen

  6. Tragic, devastating, if anything good will come from this tragedy , EDUCATION will save lives. Thank you to the family through your immense pain, you show how much you loved your son by sharing your life pain to save and protect cherished young men from this deadly “game”. May God give you strength and comfort

    • +1
    • Vote -1
    • Vote +1
    Mom of OLL kids on

    Rob, Thank you. You put into words what so many in our community are feeling. Knowing the signs to look for are important as a parent. I’m a parent of two kids at OLL, one a friend and teammate of Kyle’s. His death effected my kids, my family and my community. He was truly loved by all – Kelly, Ed, his sisters and brother should be proud of the young man they raised.
    Kyle had a great family who from what I see spent a lot of time together.
    Spending time with our kids, talking to them is so important. Be open with your kids, you might not like what they have to say, you might not like the choices they are making. But listening to them is key to understanding them.

    We will never forget #85 and I will waive when I see Ed, Kelly, Sam or Mitch driven that big white truck.

    • Vote -1
    • Vote +1
    Debbie LaRocque on

    My 18 year old son Kelly died 6 1/2 years ago playing this deadly game. We are from St. Joseph Island 40 kms east of Sault Ste. Marie, ON. So this story is all too familiar to us. Like Kyle, our Kelly was also well liked, had plans for his future. Just an hour before his death, he had asked that I book an appt. for him to have his hair cut, which I did and it was scheduled for the following Tuesday. Kelly was also in the process of restoring a 78 Ford pick up that he planned to deck out in Toronto Maple Leaf colours & logos. Unlike Kyle the coronor believed that it was Kelly’s first time playing this deadly activity. I have become a strong advocate for speaking out on the dangers of this activity, I have done over 150 presentations to all ages at schools, special interest groups and just in family homes, here in Ontario and beyond. If anyone would like further information about this activity or would like to schedule a presentations, even if you’d like to talk with another parent that has been down this dreadful road before, feel free to contact me 705-246-2714 or email jesuslovesme87-06@hotmail.com I am able to provide police and principle references as well. I would also like to say thank you for positing this and sharing Kyle’s story. I pray this story will save lives and help our kids make wise informed decisions about whether or not to play such a game. I am praying for Kyle’s family.

    • Vote -1
    • Vote +1
    Erik Baaske on

    Mr. Charles and Sergeant Rob, Thank you for helping to get the message out about this activity. To Kyle’s family and friends, you have my sincerest condolences and sympathy. As a surviving parent having lost our 13 year-old daughter, I understand the emotions you are feeling, and I am so terribly sorry for that. My thoughts and prayers are with you all.
    Erik B in South Carolina
    DB Foundation Speaker / Presenter for
    Choking Game Awareness

    • Vote -1
    • Vote +1
    Lisa Waters on

    I’m sorry for being so unaware of this horrible game…..I’ll be passing this on to our local school board and principals……

    This information has to flood the population.

    I remember when Breast Cancer wasn’t talked about and simply saying ‘Breast’ in public wasn’t acceptable…look at the awareness now! That’s the awareness that needs to get out there.

    I also remember when my kids were small….if they’re quiet, go check because they’re into something that they shouldn’t be.
    Does this now mean, when they’re not into drugs, alcohol, trouble of some sort, that we need to check, because they’re into something?

    I worry about our kids.

  7. I am 43 years old and I can honestly say I have never ever heard of this in my life. I have heard of a lot of things but this just floors me. I really tend to agree with Kyle’s father, education. I listened to you Charles and I can say to the people that THINK everybody knows about this, think again. I will be educating every single person I know.

    Thanks for this.

  8. I am so sorry for Ed and Kelly and their family, friends and neighbors. I went to high school with Ed. This is such a tragedy. As parents we need to pay attention! This deadly game is just one of many threats. Watch closely as there are slow killers that will sneak up on you before you realize. My daughter is in the hospital from one such threat. My god pay attention and educate our children! Much love to the Ehinger family.

    • Vote -1
    • Vote +1
    karla ekstrand on

    I too lost my grandson to this deadly game Austin was a happy go luckly 10 year old boy he loved doing things that a 10 yr old boy would do bugs,trucks,and dirt trying to get badges for scouts with his brother Billy Almost always picking on his sisters Karly and Katey and Mom and Dad of course And coming to my house for stay overs and ice cream …Prayers to all who have lost a loved one to this game Awareness and Education is the key from Idaho we love you Austie

  9. I never knew Kyle but I truly feel for his family and friends. I personally don’t have a teenager my son is only 10 months but as soon as he is old enough I am going to sit him down and tell him about this young man. Tell him what the good things are that life can offer. Explain how life is going to be hard but his father and I will be there every step of the way. God Bless all of Kyle’s family and friends and I will carry his story with me in my heart forever.

    • Vote -1
    • Vote +1
    Carlos Flores RN on

    Rob, thanks so much for your insight. There is a small army of us working to enlighten communities around the U.S. to the dangers of this “game.” Contact the DB Foundation at http://www.chokinggame.net if you’re interested in joining us.

    • Vote -1
    • Vote +1
    Linda Dzbanski on

    I am from Madison Heights Michigan I lost my son from this deadly act 2/8/2009. We knew our son was trying to free himself from this act when he died. We don’t know who taught it to him usually it is a friend or peer the internet has lots on it too our computer was checked by a police unit nothing found. My hope for parents is an ever present peace that is as unexplainable as their childrens death. I grieve for my child every day it never goes away. Children don’t try this even once.

  10. My daughter also knew Kyle. My heart goes out to his family and friends. One thing I do want to say is that kids often get a raw deal. Young adults don’t get praised when they should. That funeral with all those young adults showed me just what wonderful kids we have. They showed such respect and I, for one, think we do have wonderful kids out there. Lets tell them more often. Lets try and always be there for them.
    I think the kids are great!!!!!

    Again, my sincere sympathy for all.

    Cheryl

    • Vote -1
    • Vote +1
    Stacey Miller on

    Thank you, Rob. This “game” is more rampant than people want to believe. My son, Chris Jacobs, lost his life on February 26, 2010 at the age of 15 to this so-called “game”. Looking back, all the signs were there, headaches, bloodshot eyes, acne, etc., but I thought it might be drugs. I was trying to get him to the doctor right before he died to see if he was using. When his toxicology came back after his death, he was clean. He assured me he did not drink or do drugs, and he was telling me the truth. Never did it once cross my mind that THIS is what he was doing.

    The grief after losing your child is like no other. It never ends. You never recover. Your life goes on, but it is never the same. You can be happy again, and you will laugh again, but you will never be the same person you were. This is true for every member of the lost child’s family.

    My heart goes out to anyone who knows the grief of losing a child. Sending much love your way.

    • Vote -1
    • Vote +1
    marion brown on

    so sorry to here about this young boy. my heart gose out to his family. i throught i might have a read as i was curious. just coz when i was young about 13 it wasnt a game at the time is was a thrill and the feeling that came with it made me drawen to it. didnt know it could be deadly and is a shamed of myself for doing that. hope this story of robs gets out to every1.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Disclaimer: The editor(s) reserve the right to edit any comments that are found to be abusive, offensive, or contain profanity.