Story of Santa Claus with dying child can't be verified
By Knoxville News Sentinel
By Associated Press
UPDATE: Last Sunday, the News Sentinel published the story of a Campbell County Santa Claus actor, Eric Schmitt-Matzen, who said a terminally ill child had died in his arms.
Immediately, the story went viral. Follow-up interviews and video recordings by local and national television outlets showed a very emotional Schmitt-Matzen retelling the story in virtually the same words he gave to the News Sentinel.
Schmitt-Matzen had not approached the News Sentinel originally with the story. The information came to the newspaper indirectly through a known source, and Schmitt-Matzen was then contacted and asked about the incident. At the time of that initial interview, he said he had promised to protect the identities of the child’s family and the nurse who summoned him to the hospital bedside. In follow-up interviews, he has continued to hold this position and stand by his account.
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - A Tennessee Santa Claus says a terminally ill 5-year-old boy died in his arms after he gave the boy a present in the hospital.
The Knoxville News-Sentinel reports Eric Schmitt-Matzen, who does about 80 events a year as Santa, was asked a few weeks ago to visit the dying boy.
Schmitt-Matzen says after giving the boy a toy, the boy asked how he would be able to tell when he got to where he was going after he died. Schmitt-Matzen told him to tell them he was "Santa's Number One elf" and they would let him in.
He says the boy gave him a big hug, asked "Santa, can you help me?" and died in his arms.
Schmitt-Matzen says it took him days to recover, but he's continuing to play Santa.