A family is grieving after twin toddlers passed away after being pulled from a pool Friday.
Elijah and Elyssa Orejuela were in the care of a babysitter when they were found in the deep end of a pool at a home on Fox Lonas Road, the Knox County Sheriff's Office said. Elyssa died Friday, and Elijah passed away Sunday, according to East Tennessee Children's Hospital. Both children would've turned two years old in August, KCSO said.
Their mother, Amelia Wieand Orejuela, issued the following statement on Tuesday thanking the community for the support and prayers:
"“After much heartbreak, Elijah has gone to be with his sister Elyssa. They were formed together in my womb and came into this world together. Both kids were extremely strong. She was his other half.
They were soul mates and never apart. Even in death they were together. He [Elijah] would have never been complete here on Earth without his other half. I know right now they are in Heaven being mischievous and giggling.
I’ll never understand this, and I’m not sure how to live with this pain. But to prevent another family from suffering this immeasurable pain, today Elijah became a superhero. He donated his organs to save others’ lives.
I can’t thank you enough for the support we have been given knowing that our babies were loved by so many and touched others’ lives. Thanks again for everyone’s support and prayers. We would also like to thank the staff at Children’s Hospital for showing so much compassion.”
--Amelia Wieand, mother of Elijah and Elyssa Orejuela"
On Sunday afternoon, about an hour before Elijah died, family and friends of the toddlers said they hope this tragedy won't happen to anyone else.
"I would really like something for this to stop, whether that be me becoming a lifeguard or just the community teaching kids at a young age to learn how to swim," Marquette Hayes, the twins' older brother, said.
The community is trying to help the family. A GoFundMe account created by a family friend has met over half of its goal.
"When tragedy strikes in East Tennessee, even when it's not something personal to me, that the East Tennessee community is just always so quick to rally together and come together for people in East Tennessee, " family friend Jennifer Lane, who started the fundraiser, said.
The twins' father plays for the Knoxville Rugby Club. Hit teammates called the family some of the best people they know. "And what we've all come to learn and find out through this experience, when your teammate, your friend, your brother is down – we're here to pick him back up," rugby team member Gabriel Woodson said.
The family told 10News they want to thank everyone for the support they've shown during this hard time.