Family: 'choking game' led to teens' deaths

August 12, 2010 (CHICAGO)

The game involves children nearly fainting and experiencing a sort of euphoric high. Some kids are calling it the choking game, blackout, rocket ride, flat liner, or the fainting game.

ABC7 talked with two families on the Northwest Side Thursday who have a warning of their own for parents about this dangerous game.

Relatives prayed with the Toia family that they have strength to get through an interview two days after their daughter's death.

"This is our only daughter," said Sam Toia.

Rebecca Toia was 15. She was going to be a sophomore at Whitney Young High School in Chicago. Her mother found her with a sheet hanging in her room on Tuesday. Toia's parents say she was playing the choking game, but had no idea how dangerous it could be.

"They just do foolish things like when we were young, when I was growing up, kids would drink in the park and that's the way they got their little thrill. The kids have gone up ten levels and they're not drinking in the park anymore, guys," said Barb Toia.

"This is a game that I think may be fairly new that I think kids, it's starting to spread around. And it just has to be stopped," said Sam Toia.

Two weeks ago, 14-year-old Angelena Ohanessian was unresponsive in her bedroom closet. Then her parents saw a cord around her neck. Ohanessian died three days later.

Her mother says afterwards friends came forward about the choking game and they found videos on her phone of the game.

"Angelena herself had told me about a month before this that some of the kids had been doing this. And it really kind of went over my head. I had no idea that she had been doing this. We also found a video on her phone of her actually videotaping some other children doing this. And we didn't find the video until she was already on life support and in the hospital," said Violet Ohanessian, mother.

Angelena would have been a freshman at Resurrection High School. The principal at that high school sent out a notice to parents Thursday telling them about the so-called game.

The Ohanessians and the Toias say they want other parents and children to be aware of this dangerous game.

Police say parents should watch out for warning signs of the chocking game that include bruising or red marks around the neck. Items such as sheets, belts, and shirts may be found tied in knots. Another red flag is visiting websites or chat rooms that mention asphyxiation.

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