"He went to bed and he didn't wake up," Maria Elisa Pineda tells PEOPLE of her son Cristian, who was found unresponsive under a pile of blankets

By Charlotte Triggs and Maria Pasquini
February 20, 2021 03:11 PM
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Cristian Pavon Pineda
| Credit: GoFundMe

The mother of a Texas boy, believed to have died in his sleep of hypothermia after his home lost power due to an unprecedented winter storm, is struggling to understand how the happy, healthy son she kissed goodnight on Monday is now gone.

On Tuesday morning, just hours after playing in the snow for the first time in his young life, Cristian Pavon Pineda, 11, was found unresponsive under a pile of blankets.

"When he saw the snow, he was happy," his mother, Maria Elisa Pineda, who moved to Texas from Honduras over two years ago, recalls to PEOPLE in Spanish.  

"He slammed a door and the snow fell on his head and he was laughing so much. We were taking all these photos of him in the snow," she adds of her son.  

After playing outside, Pineda says her son went to bed around 10 p.m., while their home was still without power. Although their electricity returned the following morning, "by that time, he was already dead." 

"He went to bed and he didn't wake up," she says of her son, whom she describes as a "healthy kid." 

"I said, 'Oh my God how can this be. God, what am I going to do. This can't be true," she recalls. 

The family believes the lack of electricity amid the frigid cold temperatures was a contributing factor in his death. 

While she first felt "worried when the electricity went out," Pineda says she didn't contemplate seeking another shelter. "I thought we'll stay here. We'll stay in our little beds together. Cristian and his brother and me, my husband and the baby in the other. But this is what happened," she says.

Now, Pineda and her family are staying with a cousin — and she's not sure she'll ever be able to return to their home again.  

"It makes me feel scared and horrible that my son died there. I don't think I will ever go back there," she says. "I will look for another place to live and move my things. I can't be there ever again."

RELATED VIDEO: Millions of Texans Are Without Power as State Is Hit by Unprecedented Winter Storm

Although power has now been restored to millions of Texas residents, Pineda says the government "should have figured out a way" to keep the lights on. "So many people have had things happen and are suffering in cold houses," she says. "Even more so when there are kids who suffer. It's not ok."

As for what she hopes others will be able to take away from her son's tragic death, Pineda stresses the importance of finding somewhere to go "if the electricity goes out."

"Look for a solution," she says. "Because this is a dangerous situation and it's very dire. Even more so when you're with your children." 

The Houston Chronicle previously reported that an autopsy was performed on Thursday, though it could be several weeks before Cristian's cause of death is confirmed.

"By all other means, he was a normal, healthy child," a spokesperson for the Conroe Police Department told the newspaper.

A GoFundMe page has been set up to raise funds to send Cristian's remains back to Honduras to be with his grandparents. As of Saturday afternoon, the campaign has raised over $65,000.