Even though he was still in bed after 2 p.m. on Tuesday under a pile of blankets in their unheated mobile home in Conroe, Tex., Maria Elisa Pineda wasn’t concerned when she checked on her son. After all, Cristian Pavon, 11, was known for sleeping in, his mother told Univision.
But when Pineda nudged the boy, Cristian did not respond to her touch.
It was too late by then. Cristian was pronounced dead that afternoon, and authorities are investigating whether the otherwise healthy boy died of hypothermia after the family’s home lost power over the weekend and temperatures in Conroe dipped to single digits earlier this week.
“He was okay,” Pineda told Univision. “He had dinner, he played and he went to bed.”
Cristian is among the youngest to die since Sunday, when winter storms left millions without electricity and water. So far, at least 47 people have died in the frigid weather, a figure authorities say is likely to rise as freezing temperatures continue and future wellness checks reveal the full magnitude of the tragedy.
At least 30 of those deaths came in Texas, The Washington Post reported, a state where continuous power outages have exposed residents to dangerously low temperatures. Some have died of carbon monoxide poisoning after turning to their ovens or trucks to stay warm. Others, like a 75-year-old man in Crosby, Tex., whose oxygen machine stopped working after his home lost power, have been found dead of hypothermia inside their homes or cars.
Cristian, who was born in the coastal city of Tela, Honduras, came to Texas in 2019 to reunite with his mother, whom he had not seen for over a year, Univision reported.
On Monday, he saw snow for the first time after the winter storm dumped a coating in his backyard. For about a half-hour, the sixth-grader, who wore a red winter jacket with a hoodie, skipped in the snow, leaving tiny footsteps behind him as his mother snapped pictures and recorded the memorable occasion with her phone.
“That’s why he was excited outside,” Pineda told the Houston Chronicle. “Everything was well. He was happy that day. He was not at all sick.”
By the time the snow soaked his winter mittens, his mother brought the boy back inside the trailer, Pineda told the Chronicle.
Although the temperature dipped to 9 degrees by early Tuesday, according to the National Weather Service, the boy did not complain about feeling cold nor ill, Pineda said. By 11 p.m., after having dinner and playing, the boy was already in bed with his 3-year-old stepbrother. At some point during the night, the boy’s stepfather woke up to check on both children, who were still responsive, his aunt Jaliza Yera told KTRK.
“He made sure they were okay,” Yera told the local station. “They were still breathing. He covered them up, patted them and went back to sleep.”
The next day, around 2:30 p.m., Pineda tried to wake up Cristian, Univision reported.
“He was already dead,” Pineda told the Chronicle. The 3-year-old boy did not suffer any injuries, Pineda said.
Pineda and the boy’s stepfather, Manuel Moreno, 38, immediately called 911, she said. Yera arrived shortly after and attempted to revive him, the aunt said to KTRK.
“We still did CPR until the fire department came and they took over and within a minute they told us it was too late,” Yera told the local station.
The Conroe Police Department arrived on Tuesday afternoon and stayed until about 8 p.m., the Chronicle reported. Both parents, who have been screened for drugs and given blood tests, have cooperated with authorities, Sgt. Jeff Smith told the Chronicle.
“By all other means, he was a normal, healthy child,” Smith said. An autopsy was performed on Thursday, and it could be several weeks before a cause of death is confirmed, Smith added.
For now, the family is raising money to repatriate Cristian’s body to Honduras. The boy had told the family he wished to return to Honduras to see his grandparents. One day, he assured his mother, he would work to build them a small house.
“But it was not to be,” Pineda told the Chronicle. “Those wishes were not fulfilled.”