Questions about Harlem school safety plan after boy's grilled cheese death

Friday, November 10, 2017
Questions about Harlem school safety plan after boy's grilled cheese death
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Tim Fleischer reports on the investigation into the death of a 3-year-old boy.

NEW YORK (WABC) -- The investigation continues into the death of a 3-year-old boy who suffered a severe allergic reaction after eating a grilled cheese at his Harlem pre-school. Meanwhile, his family continues to speak out about their heartbreaking ordeal.

Investigators from the Department of Health are focusing on the center's safety plan and how it was followed.

"I kept praying and praying and praying," Thomas Silvera said. "It's like, this cannot happen."

The tragic loss of his 3-year-old son Elijah weighs heavy on him, his wife Dina and their 5-year-old son Sebastian.

"Something so simple could have been avoided, if they would have followed and paid attention to my son's needs," he said.

While at pre-K at the Seventh Avenue Center for Family Services on November 3, Elijah was given a grilled cheese sandwich even though his parents say school officials were aware that he had a severe allergy to dairy products.

Elijah is said to have gone into anaphylactic shock and was rushed to Pediatric Emergency at Harlem Hospital by his mother, because the staff called her instead of 911. Doctors were unable to save his life.

"When I got to the hospital, it was too late," Thomas said.

After shutting down the school, health department officials began looking at the required safety plan. The staff is also supposed to work with parents on a food allergy plan and must maintain a medical file in the event of medical emergencies.

The center's website says staffers are "certified in first aid and CPR. Each classroom is supplied with a first-aid kit, and emergency contact numbers are posted in each center."

But it is not known if those kits contain an epinephrine injector.

At other city schools with pre-K, officials say there are allergy protocols.

"We are sending it out on Monday to remind people what it is," Schools Chancellor Carmen Farina said. "There are certain allergies that we have signs on doors. We have many signs that say 'this is a peanut-free classroom.' We have trained our lunchroom staff on how to monitor for allergies."

But now, with so many unanswered questions, Eljah's family is trying to move forward.

"Elijah was strong," Thomas said. "He was a fighter. And I'm going to keep fighting for that boy. Just so people know, this is not the end of Elijah."