The family of an 11-year-old boy who died during a cold weather snap in Texas have filed a $100m lawsuit against power companies who were “wholly unprepared to deal with the crisis at hand.”
Cristian Pineda went to sleep in the mobile home where he lived with his mother, stepfather and two young brothers on February 15, but did not wake up the next day.
The thin-walled, poorly insulated home in Conroe, just north of Houston, lost power in the freezing temperatures and the lawsuit accuses utility firms of putting "profits over the welfare of people" by failing to prepare properly.
It was -12 degrees on the night that Christian died, the family says.
"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 peremptory action that could have averted the crisis and were wholly unprepared to deal with the crisis at hand," the lawsuit alleges.
“Everything was well. He was happy that day. He was not at all sick,” his mother Maria Elisa Pineda said last week.
The family moved to Texas two years ago from Honduras and it was Cristian’s first time seeing snow.
They believe he died of hypothermia, but it could be several weeks until an autopsy confirms a cause of death.
Texas has been battered by deadly weather, which has claimed more than 20 lives.
On Saturday, Joe Biden approved a major disaster declaration for the state, clearing the way for more aid as he weighed a trip to survey the federal response.
Millions of residents in the United States' biggest oil and gas producer have dealt with power outages, and nearly half of Texans struggled with disrupted water service last week.
Cristian’s family says he would not have died if the energy grid was properly guarded against severe winter weather or if residents had been warned of prolonged outages at the outset of the cold snap.
The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), which operates the state's power grid said of Cristian’s death: "This is a tragedy, and our thoughts and prayers are with the family.
"We haven’t reviewed any pending lawsuits yet and will respond accordingly once we do," they told the Houston Chronicle.
A spokesperson for Entergy Texas said the company could not comment due to pending litigation.
"We are deeply saddened by the loss of life in our community," the company said.
A GoFundMe page for donations to send Cristian’s body to Honduras to be buried has raised more than $88,000.