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Who is Vanessa Boyd? Mom shares how TikTok trend led boy, 14, to choke and die

James Boyd-Gergely, who is believed to have taken part in TikTok's viral 'blackout challenge' choked himself to death last year
UPDATED JUN 17, 2021
(Photo Illustration by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
(Photo Illustration by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

NOTE: MEAWW is only reporting on this trend, and under no circumstance do we encourage anyone to try it. In fact we advise all our readers not to. If, however, you have an impressionable mind and easily succumb to suggestion, then please stop reading now.

Another viral TikTok challenge took a life and left a family devastated. James Boyd-Gergely, 14, who is believed to have taken part in TikTok's viral 'blackout challenge' choked himself to death last year. Now, his mom, Vanessa Boyd is warning other parents about the dangers of social media.

Teenager James Boyd-Gergely allegedly took part in TikTok’s Blackout Challenge, where users dare each other to choke themselves until they are unconscious. James was found dead in the front veranda of his home in Laagan, in the Southern Tablelands, NSW on April 22, 2020. This is not the first account of 'accidental death' during the pursuit of a TikTok challenge. Back in March 2021, Joshua Haileyesus, a 12-year-old boy from Colorado, was left brain-dead after he passed out while reportedly trying to choke himself with a shoelace to participate in the infamous 'Blackout Challenge'. 


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Vanessa believes that her son's death was not intentional but a result of 'peer pressure combined with isolation' during the lockdown. However, she also mentioned that although James struggled with bullying, he did not suffer from depression and was a 'happy teenager'. There was nothing going on with self-harm in the lead up to that," she told Vanessa also added, "The day he died, he did his chores and did his homework. He never would have done his homework if he was planning something like that."

"He seems to have been on TikTok that day and there was the choking challenge where a lot of teenage boys challenge each other to film themselves finding different ways to choke themselves to get some sort of euphoric feeling. He was out riding his motorbike that day. The fire was lit and he was playing music."

Image used for representation (Photo by Kevin Frayer/Getty Images)

"It’s almost like it was a stunt gone wrong. There is no way in my mind that he would do that intentionally. He had a great group of friends at school, he was happy." Vanessa further added that a search of James's phone revealed he was searching TikTok choking challenge videos on the day of his death. "Confirming the TikTok side of things is going to be hard. It took over three months to get into his phone, and after three months, TikTok resets itself, so we can’t see exactly what he was looking at," she said.

Vanessa now wants to warn other parents to be aware and openly speak with their children about the dangers of social media and cyber-bullying. "I’m a big supporter of Dolly’s Dream. I live rurally, I live that lifestyle and that was so shocking to me to read that story [about Dolly Everett’s suicide] when it came out," she said. "It really affected me, but I never once thought to talk to my child about it; and the same thing happened at almost the same age to my child. There needs to be more discussion as there is a big gap there that isn’t filled, " she added.

Vanessa concluded by saying she wishes her son, James is remembered as a "gentle giant", who adored his younger sisters.