Dad speaks out after son's grilled cheese death at pre-K

Friday, November 10, 2017
ABC News Exclusive: Father speaks out after allergic toddler dies at NYC pre-K
Tim Fleischer reports from Midtown.

NEW YORK -- The father of a 3-year-old boy who died after eating a grilled cheese at his Harlem pre-school spoke exclusively to ABC News.

The parents of 3-year-old Elijah Silvera were huddled with their attorney in Midtown Thursday evening, and for the first time, they opened up publicly about the tragedy.

"When I got to the hospital, it was too late," dad Thomas Silvera said.

He and wife Dina are deeply grieving their son's death. Thomas remembers getting a phone call from Harlem Hospital.

RELATED: FDNY: Harlem pre-K didn't call 911 after boy's deadly allergic reaction to grilled cheese

"They said, 'You need to get to the hospital right away,' and my wife gets on the phone and says, 'You need to get here, he's not breathing,'" he said.

While at pre-K at the Seventh Avenue Center for Family Services on November 3, Elijah was given a grilled cheese sandwich even though his parents say school officials were aware that he had a severe allergy to dairy products.

Elijah is said to have gone into anaphylactic shock and was rushed to Pediatric Emergency at Harlem Hospital by his mother, because the staff called her instead of 911. Doctors were unable to save his life.

"The only thing I can do is hang up and go," Thomas said. "And when I got to the hospital, it was too late."

The center is now shut down, and children and their parents were turned away earlier Thursday as multiple city agencies investigate Elijah's death.

RELATED: 3-year-old boy with dairy allergy dies after Harlem pre-K allegedly gave him grilled cheese

"We do believe this is an isolated incident," Administration for Children's Services Deputy Commissioner Lorelei Vargas said. "But there is an active investigation, and we hope to learn more."

The center's pre-K program is regulated by the city's Health Department. The center's website says children are safeguarded "by consulting with parents immediately when health or developmental problems are suspected or identified." Staffers are "certified in First Aid and CPR. Each classroom is supplied with a First Aid Kit and emergency contact numbers are posted in each center." It doesn't say anything about calling 911, and it is unknown if the kits contain an epinephrine injector.

"How can you not call 911?" one Harlem resident asked. "I'm in a state of shock. I just can't believe that happened."

There are still many unanswered questions for investigators. Elijah's family has set up a GoFundMe page.