Haileyesus was allegedly attempting to complete TikTok's latest viral challenge, the "Blackout Challenge," which left him unconscious.
The Blackout Challenge has been around for years, often referred to as the "Choking Game" or the "Pass-Out Challenge," in which a person is expected to see how long they can go without breathing, typically with the aid of a rope or something similar around their neck.
The appeal is an alleged state of euphoria shortly before going unconscious, but obviously, so much could go wrong.
The challenge is similarly dangerous to other viral internet challenges of the past, such as the "Tide Pod Challenge" and the "Fire Challenge."
12-year-old Haileyesus allegedly had access to a TikTok account, despite being underage, and decided to take part in the challenge.
Just days before, his father, Zeryihun, had overheard Haileyesus bragging to his twin brother that he could hold his breath for over a minute.
His twin brother was also the one to discover him in the bathroom they shared, unconscious with a shoestring tied around his neck. He's now in the Children's Hospital ICU in Denver, Colorado.
After arriving at the hospital, Haileyesus was declared brain dead, and the family has been instructed to prepare their good-byes for him.
Zeryihun confided feeling helpless.
"[The doctors] told me the bad news that he's not going to survive, he's not going to make it."
"I was begging them on the floor, pleading to see if they can give me some time, not to give up on him."
"If I just give up on him, I feel like I'm just walking away from my son."
"He's a fighter. I can see him fighting. I'm praying for him every day."
"It's just heartbreaking to see him laying on the bed."
Zeryihun also feels responsible after hearing his sons' conversation days earlier.
"I'm paying the price right now. I'm living the life, and I hate for other parents to go through this."
The family hopes speaking up now will encourage other families to talk to their children about viral challenges, the good and the bad, and to watch for signs of interest like Haileyesus displayed.
Haileyesus's aunt, Ethiowood Washington, also attempted to spread awareness on Facebook.
Twitter felt terrible for the family.
@JackPosobiec Dear Lord. This is disturbing on so many levels. Such a young child. Prayers for his family. 💔— Georgianne Spencer (@Georgianne Spencer)1617136028.0
@JackPosobiec So sad. I feel heartfelt pain for the family of this beautiful child!— Salleen Sherman (@Salleen Sherman)1617136715.0
@JackPosobiec Heartbreaking. Prayers for the family.— Brent and Lauren (@Brent and Lauren)1617136877.0
@JackPosobiec My heart goes out to his parents. So sad and unnecessary.— Jane Patriot (@Jane Patriot)1617138102.0
Some also suggested an end to social media.
@JackPosobiec I’m sickened, this beautiful boy. Please end tic tok.— Elizabeth (@Elizabeth)1617136414.0
@JackPosobiec Social media needs to be banned. Our brainwashed children need to get outside and play in the neighbo… https://t.co/Zfxwf0IuJt— Mary Anna (@Mary Anna)1617139786.0
@JackPosobiec This is sick. Why aren't parents on top of every single thing their kids are doing ESPECIALLY in the… https://t.co/CC1tIde1Dd— THE #AmericaFirst Book Goddess (@THE #AmericaFirst Book Goddess)1617138589.0
@JackPosobiec How long this was allowed to go on on that platform before this tragedy occurred? How many kids were… https://t.co/c3PF4IegUr— Scott Dulaney (@Scott Dulaney)1617135954.0
The Haileyesus family now has a GoFundMe page to collect funds to help keep Joshua alive, with their goal of $200K nearly fulfilled.
Joshua Haileyesus is not the only child to have been the victim of such a challenge. Just days before, a 10-year-old girl in Sicily, Italy was discovered in her bathroom by her 5-year-old sister, dead after trying to complete the "Blackout Challenge."
In response, Italy has placed a ban on TikTok for any user whose age cannot be verified, at least while they complete their investigation surrounding the death of the 10-year-old girl.
For families like those in Aurora and Sicily, users should start rethinking their participation in potentially harmful challenges.