Choking is not a game

April 28, 2009

By Chantelle Lusebrink

Grieving parents share their heartache, lessons with others

Kevin Tork earned good grades in school and hung out with his friends. Most recently, he fell in love with poetry and had begun writing, completing six chapters in a book he called “The Mark.” 

But on March 30, Kevin’s life ended at age 15 while he was playing what is known as the choking game. 


Kathy Tork mourns the death of her 15-year-old son, Issaquah High School student Kevin. Kathy and husband Ken are certain he accidentally strangled himself while playing the choking game. By Greg Farrar

Kathy Tork mourns the death of her 15-year-old son, Issaquah High School student Kevin. Kathy and husband Ken are certain he accidentally strangled himself while playing the choking game. By Greg Farrar

“I had gone to a staff meeting and called the house to tell the kids I was on my way,” his mother Kathy Tork said. “It was odd, but I didn’t think anything of it, only Kelly answered. Usually, they both pick up at the same time.”

After he didn’t pick up the phone, Kelly, 11, went to her brother’s room and found him slumped over with a bathrobe cord around his neck. She called her mother back.

“She said, ‘He is sitting in his bedroom and something is around his neck,’” Kathy Tork said of that frantic conversation. “I flew up Lakemont Boulevard faster than I should say.”

Kathy called 911 from her car and when she got home, medics were in Kevin’s room trying to revive him. They took him to Harborview Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead on arrival. 


“My world stopped at 6:37 p.m. March 30,” Kevin’s father Ken Tork said. “I lost my best friend.”

He was the type of child who would go out of his way to open doors for the elderly and would look to help anyone who needed it to brighten their day, his mother said. 

“When he was here at the house, he was this goofy kid,” his father added. “But when he walked out the door every day, he became this strong young man.”

Kevin’s memory lives on in the hearts of those he touched, his family said. Since his death, they have received dozens of letters and cards attesting to their son’s generosity and his impact on others.

At the King County Medical Examiner’s Office, investigators are still determining the cause of Kevin’s death, said Dr. Richard Harruff, chief medical examiner.

But the Torks are adamant their son’s death wasn’t a suicide and they said they have no doubt that Kevin died from the choking game. 

“He loved his sister. Why would he commit suicide while she was home, to have her find him?” Kathy Tork asked. “We know that’s not what happened. He left his homework half finished. He was going flying with his cousin on his birthday, and he was going to take his sister for a two and a half hour drive in his truck.

“He wasn’t unhappy. He was a normal kid who wasn’t into drugs or alcohol,” she said. “But this, we think he probably dabbled in this before.”

Kevin’s father said he is certain his son was involved with the choking game because of the way his body was found. 

“I don’t have to go through his computer history,” Ken Tork said. “Kevin was on YouTube all the time. I know he found it there.”

Rather than keeping their grief private, as some parents might do, the Torks have decided to educate themselves and go public, hoping to prevent other teens from making the same mistake their son made — especially, as summer break looms and students are left unsupervised, his mother said. 

“It is a tragic mistake, a fatal mistake, on Kevin’s part,” she said of his death.

One way parents can help their children is to block YouTube and talk to them about the dangers of the game, Ken Tork said. 

“My mission, ‘til my heart stops beating, is to make sure I save others,” Ken Tork said. “I can’t save my son, but I can save them.”

Reach Reporter Chantelle Lusebrink at 392-6434, ext. 241, or Comment on this article at 

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2 Responses to “Choking is not a game”

  1. IssyMom on April 29th, 2009 8:26 am

    YouTube should not allow these types of videos to be posted.

  2. rodney on May 1st, 2009 12:03 am

    do you honestly think youtube it to blame?
    im sorry for the loss but that site more than likely has nothing to do with this “choking game”

    never in the 20 years of my life have i seen this game on youtube
    he could have found it anywhere
    most likely from a friend at school

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