Death of seemingly healthy, soccer-loving Sanger boy stuns family

The Fresno BeeJanuary 23, 2014 

Pedro Ivan Espinoza, the youngest of three children of a Sanger family, died Monday of cardiac arrest, his father, Pedro Espinoza, said Thursday, Jan. 23, 2014. The boy, a seventh grade student at Washington Academic Middle School, was practicing soccer when he collapsed.


A Sanger family is trying to understand why their seemingly healthy, soccer-mad 12-year-old son collapsed and died at a soccer practice Monday afternoon.

Pedro Ivan Espinoza, the youngest of three children, died of cardiac arrest, father Pedro Espinoza said Thursday.

"We're devastated," Espinoza said in Spanish. "We lost a treasure that we will never be able to get back."

With the day off from school for the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, Pedro, a seventh grade student at Washington Academic Middle School, and his 15-year-old brother, Israel, eagerly asked their parents for permission to go to soccer practice just past noon, Espinoza said.

A few minutes later, the two brothers were pedaling to the soccer field, just a few blocks from their house.

Practice was ending by the time they got to the soccer fields, but the coach and a few teammates were still kicking the ball around and the brothers joined in. About 15 minutes after they arrived, Pedro suddenly collapsed to the ground.

"My heart dropped when I got the call," Espinoza said. "When I got there his eyes were open but he wasn't responding."

Pedro was rushed to a local hospital and was then taken to Community Regional Medical Center. About two hours later, Pedro was declared dead.

The family is in complete shock.

"We're trying to be strong, but it's the worst pain we have ever gone through," Espinoza said.

Pedro, who would have turned 13 on June 29, loved sports, especially soccer, and would always root for his favorite soccer team from Mexico -- Club America.

Matt Navo, Sanger Unified superintendent, said Pedro was known on campus for his love of sports, his vibrant personality and his thick red reading glasses.

"He was a great kid, one of those children any parent would be proud of," Navo said.

Pedro grew up in Sanger and previously attended Lincoln Elementary School and Sanger Academy Charter School.

On Wednesday evening, more than 200 people attended a candlelight vigil in memory of Pedro in front of the entrance to Washington Academic Middle School.

"I was surprised to see how many people showed up," Espinoza said.

During the vigil, family, coaches and former teachers shared their memories about Pedro.

"We feel blessed to see all the support the community has given us," Espinoza said. "I had no idea he was so loved by the community, even complete strangers showed up."

The family has scheduled a memorial service on Wednesday at 10 a.m. at St. Mary's Catholic Church, 12050 E. North Ave., in Sanger. A memorial fund has been set up at the Bank of the West, account No. 032982801.

"We've asked ourselves why this happened to us, but there are some questions that will be never be answered," Espinoza said. "We're a united family and we will try to stay strong."

The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6659, or @DianaT_Aguilera on Twitter.

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