Police issue alert after teens die from 'choking game'

August 13, 2010 9:11:00 PM PDT
Chicago police are spreading the word about a dangerous game that has claimed the lives of at least two local teenagers recently.

The recent hanging deaths of 16-year-old Rebecca Toia - who was found by her mother Tuesday hanging by her neck from a cloth belt - and 14-year-old Angelena Ohanessian who died the same way two weeks ago - have prompted the alert. The 'choking game' involves children nearly fainting and experiencing a sort of euphoric high.

A Northwest Side community mourned Rebecca Toia's loss Friday.

Parents at Oriole Park Friday night took a break from watching football practice to learn about the two recent deaths. For some, it may have been the first time they have heard about the choking game but others in the Northwest Side community had heard. Just a few blocks away visitors stopped by the wake of Rebecca Toia.

"It was really shocking and so unreal," said Elyse Madigan, former teammate.

Cailtin Ryan was Toia's best friend since the girls met in first grade.

"I was really shocked that anyone could ever do that especially Becky since she was so smart," said Ryan.

"Trying to get parents to talk with their kids about this dangerous game...hopefully we can save a life," said Tracy Ryan, Caitlin's mother.

Two of Toia's former grade school teachers want to make sure that students know about the dangers.

"It's bad enough they're doing it in groups but to do it by yourself and just put yourself at that huge risk," said Amanda DelDotto, former teacher.

"You would be living underneath a rock if you don't take this seriously and learn from it," said Amanda Milnamow, former teacher.

Two weeks ago, Ohanessian was found unconscious apparently after the choking game. She died three days later.

Chicago police warned parents and teens Friday that the near death euphoria from choking can easily become fatal or lead to permanent injury.

"If you feel your child is involved with any of this, engaged in any of this behavior, we would suggest you contact your pediatrician because it can result in brain damage," said Det. Valerie Lymperis, Chicago Police Department.

While the last few days have been consumed with the shocking information about the choking game, the Toias want Saturday, the day of their daughter's funeral, to be focused on celebrating Rebecca Toia's life. Recebba she was known for being smart, funny and dedicated. She was the only freshman to make it on the varsity softball team at Whitney Young.


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