2-year-old stops breathing during dental work, later dies, family says


YUMA, Arizona (CNN/KNXV) — An Arizona family is searching for answers after a 2-year-old boy stopped breathing at a dental appointment and died days later last month.

Zion Jay Gastelum’s family told KNXV that the boy’s parents took him to the dentist on Dec. 16 for a crown and filling.

Gastelum’s uncle said that somehow during or after the process at Kool Smiles Dentist, Gastelum stopped breathing, the uncle told the TV station.

The toddler was taken to Yuma Regional Medical Center and then flown to Maricopa County, where he died days later on Dec. 20, family members said.

KNXV contacted the Maricopa County Medical Examiner’s Office, which said the cause and manner of death are pending.

“Everything about him was just lovely,” the boy’s grandmother, Norma Yarrito, said. “A lovely, lovely little boy.”

Yarrito said her grandson’s funeral services were held Wednesday night.

“He was just the apple of everybody’s eye and the light in their hearts,” Yarrito said. “He was just so loving that everybody loved him.”

Citing HIPAA and other restrictions that come with privacy laws, a company spokeswoman for Kool Smiles declined further comment, but did email the following statement to KNXV:

The Kool Smiles family expresses our sincere, heartfelt sympathy to the family of Zion Gastelum. Our hearts are breaking for Zion’s family at this very sad time. Since Kool Smiles’ founding nearly twenty years ago, we have safely and compassionately provided needed dental care through more than 19 million patient visits. Our dedicated dentists, anesthesiologists and the rest of our Kool Smiles family join the community to mourn this tragic loss.

KNXV confirmed that the Yuma Fire Department responded to Kool Smiles in December for an “emergency medical response.” The Yuma Police Department said they assisted fire officials with a “medical issue” at Kool Smiles on Dec. 16.

As Yarrito remembers her grandson she offers advice to other parents.

“I want them to know that when they take their kid to doctors or a dentist, they need to be present at all times,” she said. “Just love your kids with all your heart because you never know what’s going to happen.”

His family said they donated Gastelum’s organs in hopes he can help others.

Gastelum’s family has set up a GoFundMe page to help raise money to help with funeral expenses.WHAT OTHERS ARE CLICKING ON

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