Thailan Cash's parents say they warned him about the "choking game," the dangerous activity that involves cutting off the supply of oxygen to the brain in order to induce a high.
Yet they believe the game is what killed their 10-year-old son on Saturday, not suicide as Milwaukee police believe.
"It wasn't a suicide, 'cause he was just too happy and he had no reason to commit suicide," the boy's father, Enzy Curtis, told local Milwaukee station TMJ4. "I think it was just a game he was playing and it got out of hand," Curtis said.
Cash says Thailan's older brother found him in the upstairs living room Saturday night, slumped over with a curtain around his neck.
"I tried pulling it from around his neck. But, it was just, I couldn't pull it. I just yanked the whole curtain down," Cash says.
Both parents say Thailan has played the choking game before, and they warned him. "I told him 'honey that's dangerous. You shouldn't do that," Cash says.
Similar accidents have shed light on the choking game in recent years, though it has been around for decades, Colleen Perry, a marriage and family therapist in California, told The Huffington Post last year:
This is NOT a new fad. This behavior has been around for decades, but now it has come into popularity. It gives the "good kids" a chance to get "high" without the risks of getting caught with alcohol or drugs. The average age of kids doing the choking game is 9 -16 years old, and 250- 1,000 kids die in the U.S. and Canada each year from it. It's difficult to get accurate numbers to assess its lethality since many are ruled as suicides.
Non-profit organization, G.A.S.P. (Games Adolescents Shouldn't Play) cites these warning signs that your child or teen may be playing the choking game:
- Any suspicious mark on the side of the neck, sometimes hidden by a turtleneck, scarf or permanently turned-up collar.
- Changes in personality, such as overtly aggressive or agitated.
- Any kind of strap, rope or belt lying around near the child for no clear reason—and attempts to elude questions about such objects.
- Headaches (sometimes excruciatingly bad ones), loss of concentration, flushed face.
- Bloodshot eyes or any other noticeable signs of eye stress.
- A thud in the bedroom or against a wall -- meaning a fall in cases of solitary practice.
- Any questions about the effects, sensations or dangers of strangulation.