Fort Worth Pre-K student dies after collapsing in cafeteria

- A Fort Worth family is mourning the sudden death of a 5-year-old girl after she collapsed during lunch Thursday.

According to a Fort Worth ISD spokesman, the Worth Heights Elementary pre-k student was having trouble breathing, prompting staff to call 911. After collapsing, she was rushed to a hospital where she later died.

Sandra Gonzalez lives across the street from the school. She was eating lunch around 11:30 when she heard sirens right outside her front door.

“I got up and looked out the window, and that's when I saw the fire truck first,” she said. “Then when I saw the teachers hysterically waving the people down, the ambulance, that's when I knew something bad was happening.”

Gonzalez said she watched as paramedics rushed inside the elementary school, using the entrance closest to the cafeteria. Angel Gomez, a 10-year-old student, was in his classroom when the emergency was unfolding.

“They told us in the announcements don't go to the cafeteria because something happened, but they didn't tell us what happened,” he said.

He said staff brought lunch to their classroom.

A letter sent home to parents offered some explanation. According to the assistant principal, a student became ill and had to be rushed to the hospital during lunch time.

The letter also stated several students witnessed the incident and were removed from the area as quickly as possible. Later, those students had a chance to speak with counselors about what they saw.

The Tarrant County Medical Examiner's Office identified the little girl as Belen Maldonado. She died from accidentally choking on her lunch, the ME's office said.

Family members are collecting donations for her funeral at www.gofundme.com/sweet-baby-belen-maldonado.

“I feel for the parents. It's going to be a very hard for them for the whole family,” Gonzalez said. “Me having a pre-k grandson, it's devastating.”

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