The family of an 11-year-old boy who died last week amid historic freezing temperatures in Texas is suing two power companies alleging they failed to take action that could’ve prevented his death.
Maria Pineda’s son Cristian died Tuesday in the family’s mobile home in Conroe, Texas. A lawyer representing the family filed a $100 million wrongful death lawsuit Saturday against Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) and Entergy Corporation.
The lawsuit, which was first reported by the Houston Chronicle, accuses the power providers of gross negligence and alleges they “put profits over the welfare of people” by ignoring recommendations to winterize the power grid and misleading customers about how long rolling blackouts would last.
“Despite having knowledge of the dire weather forecast for at least a week in advance, and the knowledge that the system was not prepared for more than a decade, ERCOT and Entergy failed to take any preemptory action that could have averted the crisis and were wholly unprepared to deal with the crisis at hand,” the lawsuit states.
Entergy, which also provides electricity in Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi, released a statement to USA TODAY saying: “We are deeply saddened by the loss of life in our community. We are unable to comment due to pending litigation.”
ERCOT said in a statement to ABC News that it had not yet reviewed the lawsuit. “Our thoughts are with all Texans who have and are suffering due to this past week,” the ERCOT statement said.
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The Pineda family was among more than 4 million customers who were left without electricity as winter weather pummeled Texas last week. They lost power and heat for two days as temperatures plummeted as low as 10 degrees in their area, the lawsuit states.
Cristian died while trying to stay warm under a pile of blankets with his 3-year-old brother, according the lawsuit. The family found him unresponsive and called 911 while attempting CPR, the lawsuit said.
The Pineda family believes Cristian died as a result of hypothermia, but the cause of death and the results of his autopsy could take several weeks, the Houston Chronicle reported.
A GoFundMe set up to raise money to send Cristian’s body back to Honduras has raised more than $87,000. Cristian was born in Tela, Honduras, and immigrated to Texas in 2019 where he was reunited with his mother, Univision reported.
More:Texas’ winter storm could make life worse for Black and Latino families hit hard by power outages
The lawsuit contends that ERCOT caused customers to believe that the blackouts would only be temporary, which prevented them from properly preparing or leaving the area.
“Accurate information might have saved Cristian Pineda’s young life,” the lawsuit said.
The lawsuit notes that ERCOT ignored recommendations from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the North American Electric Reliability Corporation.
The federal report, issued in the summer of 2011 after a winter storm caused rolling blackouts, found that state officials in 1989 – after another cold snap caused outages – “issued a number of recommendations aimed at improving winterization on the part of the generators.”
“These recommendations were not mandatory, and over the course of time implementation lapsed,” said the August 2011 report by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the North American Electric Reliability Corporation.
Winter storm blackouts plagued Texas in 2011, too:Recommendations made afterward went unenforced.
“Rather than invest in infrastructure to prepare for the known winter storms that would most certainly come and potentially leave people vulnerable without power, the providers instead chose to put profits over the welfare of people, and ERCOT allowed them to do so,” the lawsuit said.
Family attorney Tony Buzbee told ABC News he is representing seven families whose relatives died during the cold snap and expects more lawsuits will be filed against energy providers.
More than 70 deaths have been linked to the intense cold and damaging storms that swept through a wide swath of the nation last week and about half the reported fatalities occurred in Texas.
“Cristian’s lawsuit is the first and his lawsuit should be the first,” Buzbee told ABC News. “This kid is going to change Texas and God bless him for that.”
Contributing:Asher Price and Bob Sechler, Austin American-Statesman
Follow N’dea Yancey-Bragg on Twitter: @NdeaYanceyBragg