Cristian Pavon Pineda is the Texas child whose death during the recent severe winter storm has made headlines nationwide. The 11-year-old boy was found dead in his bed in the family’s mobile home in Conroe, Texas, on February 16.
The mobile home lacked electricity and heat as temperatures plunged below freezing. Cristian’s cause of death has not yet been formally determined but the family suspects he died of hypothermia. The family’s attorney, Tony Buzbee, told KTRK-TV he plans to sue ERCOT and power company Entergy for gross negligence.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Cristian Pavon Grew Up in Honduras & Was Excited to Play in the Snow for the First Time, His Mother Said
— Conroe Courier (@ConroeCourier) February 19, 2021
The recent winter storm marked the first time Cristian had ever seen snow and he was thrilled by it, his mother told The Courier of Montgomery County. Maria Elisa Pineda told the newspaper she took photos of her son playing in the snow. “Everything was well. He was happy that day. He was not at all sick.”
Cristian was born and raised in Tela, Honduras. He moved to Texas in 2019 after having been separated from his mother for about a year, the Washington Post reported, citing the Spanish-language TV network Univision.
Pineda told The Courier her son dreamed of becoming a pilot one day. She added that Pavon loved being a big brother. He had a 3-year-old stepbrother and an 11-month-old half-brother.
According to the newspaper, the family had lived in the mobile home in Conroe for about nine months. Conroe PD spokesman Sgt. Jeff Smith described the home as a “40-year-old single-wide trailer with little insulation.”
2. Cristian’s Stepfather Checked on the Boy Overnight But Hours Later, They Found Him Dead in the Bed
Cristian went to sleep on February 15 alongside his 3-year-old stepbrother, with whom he shared a bed. The mobile home hadn’t had electricity or heat in about two days by that point, KTRK-TV reported. The Washington Post, citing Pineda, reported that Cristian never complained about the cold and never indicated whether he felt sick.
Cristian’s aunt, Jaliza Yera, told the local TV station that Cristian’s stepfather, Manuel Moreno, checked on the boys in the middle of the night. “He made sure they were okay. They were still breathing. He covered them up, patted them and went back to sleep.”
Cristian didn’t get out of bed in the morning, but the family didn’t initially think anything of it. Cristian liked to sleep in when he didn’t have school, Univision reported. According to People, Cristian slept “under a pile of blankets.”
Pineda tried to wake Cristian up around 2:30 p.m but the boy was not responsive. The family called 911 but told The Courier they were temporarily placed on hold until a Spanish-speaking dispatcher could be put on the phone.
But as Yera told KTRK-TV, Cristian was already gone. “We still did CPR until the fire department came and they took over and within a minute they told us it was too late.” Cristian’s younger stepbrother was not injured.
3. A GoFundMe Campaign Has Raised More Than $84,000, Which the Family Plans to Use to Send Cristian’s Body Back to Honduras
He further told the newspaper that Cristian’s parents had been cooperative. Officers took blood samples from Pineda and Moreno to check for drug use, which Smith explained was simply a routine step in investigations.
But the family strongly believes Cristian died because of the freezing cold weather. Yera started a GoFundMe campaign to raise money to send Cristian’s body back to Honduras for burial. She wrote on the page:
Due to low temperatures seen in the Conroe area, this family went without electricity for two days. The early morning of February 16 dropped to 12 degrees. Cristian was found lifeless. We are trying to raise funds to be able to transfer the body to Honduras. His wish was to see his grandparents again and that is what the mother wants to fulfill, please help with whatever you can in order to hopefully be able to achieve this, God bless you.
Yera set a goal of raising $5,000. But as of this writing, thousands of donors had given more than $84,000.
4. The Family Is Suing for Gross Negligence But ERCOT Has Defended Its Decision to Shut Off Power
The family has hired a Houston attorney, Tony Buzbee, to represent them. Buzbee told KTRK-TV he plans to file a lawsuit against ERCOT and Entergy for $100 million.
Buzbee claimed the companies were guilty of gross negligence in Cristian’s death due to the decision to shut off customers’ power. “These decisions, which led to deaths, were made based on profit, not welfare of people,” Buzbee told the TV station. “People died. ERCOT and the electrical providers like Entergy must account.”
The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) operates Texas’ electrical grid and Entergy is an energy provider. ERCOT released a written statement defending its decision to shut off power during the severe winter storm:
We haven’t yet reviewed the lawsuits and will respond accordingly once we do. Our thoughts are with all Texans who have and are suffering due to this past week. However, because approximately 46% of privately-owned generation tripped offline this past Monday morning, we are confident that our grid operators made the right choice to avoid a statewide blackout.
Heavy reached out to ERCOT for further comment. The organization responded via email: “This is a tragedy. Our thoughts are with all Texans who have and are suffering due to this past week. We haven’t yet reviewed the lawsuits in full and will respond accordingly once we do.”
Entergy also released a brief statement, KHOU-TV reported: “We are deeply saddened by the loss of life in our community. We are unable to comment due to pending litigation.”
5. Officials Said Texas’ Power Grid Was ‘Minutes Away’ From ‘Catastrophic Failure’
Texas could have gone without electricity for several months if ERCOT had not made the decision to temporarily shut off power to customers when it did, ERCOT president Bill Magness insisted to The Texas Tribune. He told the newspaper the state’s electric grid was “seconds and minutes” away from suffering a massive failure because, due to the below-average temperatures brought on by the winter storm, demand far outweighed available supply. “The operators who took those actions to prevent a catastrophic blackout and much worse damage to our system, that was, I would say, the most difficult decision that had to be made throughout this whole event,” Magness said.
ERCOT had planned on implementing rolling blackouts to ease the strain on the system. As the Associated Press reported, rolling blackouts are meant to prevent individual areas from going without power for too long. But in Texas, millions of customers went days without electricity, CBS Austin reported.
The lawsuit from Cristian Pavon’s family is not the only one ERCOT now faces. As The Corpus Christi Caller Times reported, a lawsuit out of Nueces County claims ERCOT and energy companies such as AEP should have been prepared for this type of emergency and should have “winterized their plants.”