Holiday Tragedy: Terminal Five-Year-Old dies in Santa’s Arms

Composite image (orig. screenshot from WBIR coverage).

Composite image (orig. screenshot from WBIR coverage).

Bre Williams, Staff Reporter

Do you believe in Santa?

Well a terminally-ill five-year-old boy did, and during a visit from Saint Nick at the hospital, he died in Santa’s arms.  The young boy was apparently aware he was about to have the last conversation he would ever have this holiday season. After the boy passed the mother ran back into the room crying and screaming, and Santa left as soon as he could.

Eric Schmitt-Matzen, is from Knoxville, Tennessee, and he played the role of Santa Claus in this sad story. He is a mechanical engineer who moonlights as Santa part time during the holidays.

He says, “I spent 4 years in the Army with the 75th Rangers and seen my share of stuff, but I ran by the nurses station bawling my eyes out.”

After the incident, which actually took place back in October, Schmitt-Matzen says he was ready to put up his Santa suit for good but he found “strength” to do one more show for the children this holiday season.

According to Fox News, the young boy told Santa “they say I’m going to die…how can I tell when I get to where I’m going?” Schmitt-Matzen replied, “Can you do me a big favor? He said sure! When you get to there tell them you’re Santa’s No. 1 elf and I know they’ll let you in. He said, they will? I said sure.”

Schmitt-Matzen/Santa refuses to identify the family, because he promised not to. He says the tragedy took place at at a local hospital in East Tennessee.  None of the hospitals in the area would comment, possibly out of respect for the family’s wishes, and possibly because of laws protecting the privacy of medical records.

With world-wide attention to the story, and an inability to confirm key details in the era of fake news, Schmitt-Matzen has received a lot of unwanted criticism and skepticism from reporters and trolls on social media. According to local NBC affiliate WBIR, his wife and a close friend confirm his very emotional reaction to the incident at the time.

Guys who play Santa in malls and public appearances are used to sometimes negative behavior from small children, but having one literally die in their arms is clearly an incredibly rare and tragic event.

At this point, deciding whether the story is true comes down to whether you believe Santa…