In a year full of preventable deaths and grief, last week’s devastating winter storm that hit Texas and much of the south only added to the grim toll. Among those that died after losing heat and power was 11-year-old Cristian Pavon of Conroe, Texas, whom authorities suspect died last week of hypothermia as he huddled under blankets in bed in his family’s mobile home after they lost power last Monday. Now, his mother has filed a lawsuit against two Texas energy providers, alleging that her son’s death was avoidable and accusing the energy providers of gross negligence.
According to Univision, Cristian immigrated from Honduras to Texas in 2019, reuniting with his mother Maria Elisa Pineda after being apart for a year. As Pineda told the Houston Chronicle, last Monday’s snowfall was her son’s “first time” seeing snow, and he delighted in playing outside. “Everything was well. He was happy that day. He was not at all sick,” Pineda recalled.
But then tragedy struck. From the Houston Chronicle:
Tucked in at 11 p.m., Cristian shared a bed with his 3-year-old step-brother while their mobile home lacked heat following a power loss early Monday morning, his family said. After a night when temperatures reportedly hit single digits, by 2 p.m. the Bozman Intermediate student had not awaken.
The toddler, meanwhile, was fine.
“He was already dead,” said a solemn Maria Elisa Pineda about the grim discovery.
Not a sickly child, Cristian made no complaint the evening before his demise, his mother assured.
In the lawsuit, which was filed over the weekend, Cristian’s family charges the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, or ERCOT, and Entergy Texas with not only failing to winterize the state’s independent power grid and with “put[ting] profits over the welfare of people,” but with failing to alert residents of the full scope of the outages.
More on the lawsuit, via the Houston Chronicle:
A lawsuit filed Saturday by Houston attorney Tony Buzbee alleges that the suspected hypothermia death of Cristian Pineda would not have happened if ERCOT and the energy company had properly guarded the energy grid against severe winter weather or warned residents of prolonged outages at the outset of this week’s deadly weather crisis.
The lawsuit, filed on behalf of the family in Jefferson County district court, accuses ERCOT and Entergy Texas of negligence and gross negligence. The Pineda family is seeking damages, funeral expenses and a judgement of more than $100 million, according to the suit.
As the family’s attorney Buzbee told the Washington Post, “The power providers, long before any of us, knew that they would not have sufficient power to protect us and they didn’t tell us that. You have people that died because of that. It’s just not acceptable. We’re going to hold people accountable.” Buzbee added, “The power providers lied to us in Texas.”