Teen suffocates in solitary choking game

April 2, 2006 at 8:14 PM

FREDERICK, Md., April 2 (UPI) -- A Maryland high school student died of asphyxiation while playing a dangerous game experts say kills 250-to-1,000 young people in the United States annually.

William C. Bowen Jr., 15, apparently wrapped a terry-cloth sash around his neck while masturbating, a practice said to heighten the sexual experience, reported The Washington Post.

Bowen had devised a safety release for the ligature around his neck, but it failed to work, said Cpl. Jennifer Bailey, spokeswoman for the Frederick County Sheriff's Office.

Also known as blackout, gasper, space monkey and suffocation roulette, the practice is most prevalent among adolescent and young adult males.

The game is usually done in groups at parties, sports events or even in gym classes. Kids are learning about it from the Internet and playing the game alone, said Julie Rosenbluth, a project director at the American Council for Drug Education in New York.

Deaths by the "choking game" are underreported because families are reluctant to reveal the circumstances, said R. Carl Westerfield, former dean of education at Lamar University in Beaumont, Texas.

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