The death of a student athlete at a home east of Sacramento, Calif., was ruled a “tragic accident,” and a Bowflex exercise machine did not cause the death, according to the Nevada County Sheriff’s Office overseeing the investigation.
Justin Butler, 16, was found unconscious in his home at the Lake of the Pines community by his family on Sept. 19 and later died at a Sacramento County medical facility after being airlifted there (Click here to see the Sept. 22 SNEWS story). His death was caused by asphyxiation, and authorities said there was no evidence Butler committed suicide.
Butler’s family has since come forward and reported that he died while playing the “choking game” -- where some object, rope or another’s hands are used to cut off blood flow to the brain so the person passes out. Participants report a euphoric high upon coming to. The athlete’s family has decided to discuss the incident openly with area newspapers to help bring attention to the “game” played mostly by teen-agers; unfortunately sometimes the game goes wrong and the person who passes out does not come to.
Butler was a junior at Bear River High School in Grass Valley, Calif., and a wide receiver on the school’s football team
A statement issued by the Sheriff’s Office attempted to dispel several possible causes it described as rumors that have been circulating about the cause of death since the accident occurred, according to the Auburn (California) Journal. Rumors ranged from a football injury to the victim becoming entangled in a piece of exercise equipment, the report noted.
Though there was exercise equipment inside the room where the incident occurred, it was determined it did not cause the death, according to a sheriff’s spokesman cited by the Auburn Journal.