WESTLAKE VILLAGE (CBSLA.com) — A family that has suffered the devastating loss of the death of their 18-month-old son has been told they have to wait at least another month before his body can be released.
The delay comes amid a backlog at the Los Angeles County Coroner’s office.
The Matthews family says George was found face-down in the pool of his grandparent’s Westlake Village home earlier this month.
His mother, Jamie, says she had gone upstairs to get George’s St. Patrick’s day clothes while he watched his favorite show.
Minutes later, she says she could see through a window that he was face-down in the pool.
She and her mother, JoDee, pulled him out.
“I started chest compressions and some water came out but he just looked so … lifeless,” she said.
George was ultimately transferred to UCLA, something Jamie videotaped thinking she’d show him one day.
“I remember thinking he loves helicopters. He moves his head like this whenever he heard helicopters and his face would light up,” she said.
But he didn’t make it.
The family recalls that the doors in the house had been locked.
“He loved feeding our dog and there was some dog food in the water so we assume that he was feeding the dog when the dog went to take care of business and he decided to follow the dog out,” she said.
The Matthews, who live out of state, have been told it may take at least a month to get his body. They just want to bury their only son.
“To have to go through the pain that we already did and then have to wait for so much longer,” said Jon Matthews, the child’s father.
The Los Angeles County Coroner’s office is under fire.
The coroner just resigned amid a 180-body backlog; toxicology cases are sitting months without review; and their accreditation could be in jeopardy.
Sheriff’s investigators say their investigation is complete and have determined that the death was a terrible accident. But, they say, they can’t officially close the case until the coroner completes an autopsy.
“When the people who are on the scene know the facts, are doing all of their paperwork, all of their policies so that it is all done. They are saying it’s clear, why is there this back-up,” asked JoDee Lang, the child’s grandmother.
The family says the only silver lining is the outpouring of support worldwide and learning George’s heart valves will go to two children.
“We just feel it was a miracle that our little George could save two people and save two families from feeling what we’ve been going through,” said Matthews.
The coroner’s office did not respond to a request for comment on this story but in the past have said personnel have left for better paying jobs.
In the meantime, a memorial service will be held Wednesday at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Westlake Village.