NEW YORK - The family of an 11-year-old Texas boy who is believed to have died of hypothermia in his bed during an extended power outage has sued two power companies for $100 million.
The mother of Cristian Pineda said she had filed the wrongful death lawsuit in Jefferson County District Court against power grid operator ERCOT and electricity provider Entergy.
The companies are accused of failing to warn people of the hazards from the outage brought on by severe weather, failing to provide accurate and complete advice and information to customers, and participating in and contributing to acts that lead to the incident, according to published reports.
Cristian's mother found the sixth grader's body under covers in his bedroom of their mobile home in Conroe on Feb. 16, according to local media reports.
The boy shared a bed with his 3-year-old stepbrother. The younger boy survived the night.
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Hypothermia can set in if the body loses heat faster than it can produce it and if it falls below about 95 degrees Fahrenheit. Normal body temperature is around 98.6 degrees.
"After hours and hours, it leads to a very dangerous condition," said Dr. Robert Glatter, an emergency physician at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.
Babies, children and seniors are at the highest risk for hypothermia because of poor circulation and temperature regulation. Those with heart problems, asthma, emphysema, chronic lung disease, diabetes and tobacco use are also vulnerable.
Poor circulation eventually prevents the heart, brain, and other vital organs from functioning, leading to death. About 32 people die from the cold annually in the U.S., according to the National Weather Service.
Cristian’s mother and step-father, Manuel Moreno, 38, called 911, according to the Houston Chronicle, but the dispatcher put them on hold to try to find someone who spoke Spanish.
The family had been without power since Feb. 14.
His aunt told a local station that the boy had no underlying conditions.
"I'm heartbroken, I had never imagined any of this was going to happen," Jaliza Yera said.
An autopsy was performed on Thursday but it will be weeks before the cause of death is confirmed.
The family started a GoFundMe account to help send the boy's body back to his home country of Honduras. The family sought $5,000. As of Monday, they had raised $87,350.
With the Associated Press