A 5-year-old Connecticut boy suffered a fatal collapse during school recess — as nearby teachers ignored him, thinking he was pretending to “play dead,” a new lawsuit charges.
The bereaved mom and dad of little Romeo Pierre-Louis in West Hartford say in court documents that their son died at the Charter Oak International Academy in April 2022 because of negligence by the school and town.
Romeo was lying on the ground for nearly 10 minutes without receiving medical attention, despite several teachers being within eyesight, says the lawsuit filed last week, according to the Hartford Courant.
Several of the tyke’s classmates told teachers about Romeo’s collapse, but the educators assumed he was playing a game the children called “play dead,” the suit claims.
A police report affirmed the children were known to play this game during recess.
Once Romeo’s teachers realized he was actually in need of medical assistance, it was too late to save him, according to the lawsuit.
His death was classified by the state medical examiner as “cardiac channelopathy, brugada syndrome (scn5a variant) and the manner of his death was “natural,” meaning there would be no further investigation.
The family filed the lawsuit Wednesday — exactly one year after the 5-year-old died. That same day, loved ones wore white and gathered at the playground where Romeo collapsed.
Attendees brought flowers and signs to place where Romeo had been playing before the tragedy. His relatives shared fond memories of the young boy, who they said loved God and his family. Kin also played videos of him reciting various Bible scriptures and The Lord’s Prayer.
The boy’s father, D’Meza Shultz Pierre Louis, led the group in The Lord’s Prayer, which he said was one of his son’s favorite recitations.
“We know that nothing will bring our son back. All we can do is keep his memory in our hearts and do what we can so this doesn’t happen to another child. Listen to our children,” Romeo’s mother Chantel said during the vigil.
Romeo’s older sister, Taty Pierre Louis, remembered her brother as her “mini me.
“He was very open, a very lovable little boy. Full of energy, very [about his] family, loving and always wanted attention. He loves his superheroes very much. And I feel like in a way, he was like our superhero,” she said.
In response to the lawsuit, West Hartford Acting Superintendent Andy Morrow told the Courant said he and district officials have Romeo in their thoughts.
“This tragedy has deeply affected the Charter Oak International Academy community, and the school district continues to make grief support and emotional assistance available to any student or educator who needs it. Due to the pending legal claims, the school district will refrain from further comment,” Morrow said in a statement.
West Hartford Corporation Counsel Dallas Dodge said that because of the legal process, the town and board of education will not be commenting beyond extending their condolences to the family.