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Raising Awareness

Brandon Rasmussen (from right), Dietrich Fire Chief Lyle Towne and Joel Smith gather around a 1957 GMC structure fire engine Saturday at the Dietrich Highway District Building in Dietrich. Rasmussen and Smith, who both lost sons to the "choking game," are restoring the engine with the help of Towne. They hope to have it on the road within a year to be used in a campaign to raise awareness about the deadly game.

DIETRICH • A firefighter for 12 years, Brandon Rasmussen thought he’d heard of everything that could harm his children.

Then, in March, his 10-year-old son, Austin, died after playing the “choking game.” At the time of Austin’s death, Dietrich School District Superintendent Neal Hollingshead called him a “happy kid” with a bright future.

“I never heard about it; this was all new to me,” Rasmussen said. “I was blind to it.”

In the so-called game, participants experience a brief high or tingly feeling after choking themselves or others, cutting oxygen flow to the brain. Now, Rasmussen is hoping to raise awareness about the behavior and its signs so other parents won’t suffer the pain of losing a child.

Sitting in the yard of the Dietrich Highway District is a decades-old fire truck that Rasmussen is planning to fix up and take to parades, fairs and schools to teach others about the choking game.

“Just so kids and parents are aware,” he said. “Just signs to watch out for so hopefully it won’t happen again.

If everything goes well, Rasmussen said he hopes to have the truck completed in about a year.

“We’ve got some people interested in

helping us with the restoration of it like the paint job,” he said.

Before it can be shined up, the truck needs to be up and running he said. He also wants the water pump to be usable.

“It would attract the kids’ and adults’ attention and start a conversation more or less,” he said.

So far, Rasmussen said he’s attended a few seminars on the choking game in Shoshone but hasn’t spoken at any. Recently, he’s been working on getting paperwork completed and liability insurance so he can speak at schools.

The goal, he said – open more parents’ eyes to the dangers that are out there.

“Being a firefighter, I thought my kids knew better,” he said. “ I thought I taught them better.”

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