Migrant toddler on bus from Texas died of pneumonia, intestinal disease

CHICAGO (CBS) -- A 3-year-old migrant girl who died while on a bus from Texas to Chicago was suffering from multiple health problems, including pneumonia and an intestinal disease, an autopsy determined.

Jismary Alejandra Barboza González died Aug. 10 while on a chartered bus traveling along Interstate 57 through Marion County, in southern Illinois, about 90 miles (145 kilometers) east of St. Louis. The bus was part of Texas Gov. Greg Abbott's program begun last year of sending migrants crossing into the state to Democratic-led cities across the country.

Marion County Coroner Troy Cannon announced Thursday that an autopsy determined Jismary died of bacterial Shigella Flexneri Colitis, an intestinal disease, and Aspiration Pneumonia. Diarrhea and vomiting also caused electrolyte abnormalities and brain swelling, which also contributed to her death. She also tested positive for norovirus and rotavirus in her intestines, and RSV in her lungs, both of which can cause diarrhea and respiratory illness.

"Her extremely low weight and length for her age at 0.2 and 1.2 growth percentiles per the World Health Organization Child Growth Standards was a significant contributing factor in her death," Cannon wrote in a press release.

 / Credit: via GoFundMe
/ Credit: via GoFundMe

Jismary began feeling ill as her family boarded the bus in Texas, but at that point she had only a low-grade fever, according to Cannon.

"During the trip, her symptoms worsened, and developed into vomiting, diarrhea, lack of appetite, and dehydration," Cannon wrote.

Her condition continued to deteriorate throughout the trip, and she started having trouble breathing.

The bus pulled over in Marion County after her mother discovered Jismary was unconscious and unresponsive. A security guard on the bus called 911, and she was taken to the hospital, as emergency crews tried to revive her. She was pronounced dead after she arrived at the hospital.

Jismary's funeral was held last month at a church in Warsaw, Indiana. The Illinois Welcoming Center, a partially state-funded program, helped cover burial costs for Jismary.

The girl's great aunt, Gisela Gonzalez, said the family set out for the United States in May from their home in Colombia, where Jismary was born.

Gisela Gonzalez, who lives in Venezuela, said there was no indication that Jismary was in distress or needed medical attention before she apparently suffered cardiac arrest on the bus. She said Jismary's parents faced down the treacherous Darien Gap and crossed five Central American countries and Mexico before turning themselves in at a U.S. immigration checkpoint.

According to the Texas Division of Emergency Management, passengers on the bus, which departed from the border city of Brownsville, were given temperature checks and asked about health conditions before boarding. The agency has said Jismary's death marked the first time Texas authorities have announced a death since it began shuttling migrants last August.

Abbott's Operation Lone Star has dispatched 30,000 migrants who have crossed into Texas seeking asylum to Chicago, Washington, New York, Philadelphia, Denver and Los Angeles — so-called sanctuary cities — in a protest he said will end when President Joe Biden "secures the border."

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