Terminally-ill boy, 5, dies in Santa’s arms in Tennessee

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.

The News-Sentinel report didn’t include details on the boy or the hospital. Schmitt-Matzen didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment from The Associated Press.

(Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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