Heartbreak, Disbelief as 4-Year-Old Boy Suddenly Dies of Possible ‘Dry Drowning' Week After Swim

Doctors say "dry drowning" is an extremely rare phenomenon, but there have been other cases like Frankie's

What to Know

  • Little Frankie Delgado went swimming during a Memorial Day weekend trip in Texas with his family; he died six days later
  • His family said emergency room doctors told them the boy likely died of "dry drowning," which can happen when water is ingested
  • It's a rare phenomenon but it happens, and Frankie's devastated parents want to spread the word to protect others from similar tragedies

A 4-year-old avid Mets fan from Texas went swimming with his family over Memorial Day weekend. Six days later, he abruptly woke up during the night, took a deep breath and died, the apparent victim of a rare phenomenon often referred to as "dry drowning." 

Little Frankie Delgado III was briefly knocked over by a wave while playing in shallow water during a trip to the Texas City Dike, a fishing and recreation area in Galveston Bay, over the holiday weekend last month, his heartbroken parents told "Today" Friday. 

Tara and Francisco Delgado said their son got right back up and seemed normal. For nearly a week he was his usual self, running around playing football with his father. Then came Saturday, June 3 -- and "our world turned upside down." 

Frankie was awoken by sudden pain; he showed signs of a stomach virus, including vomiting and diarrhea. 

"He went 'Ahh,' he looked at me with these painfully hurtful eyes like I've never seen him before," Francisco Delgado said. "Then he just took a deep breath; he took a deep breath and rolled his eyes back and laid back down." 

An ambulance took Frankie to the hospital, but he didn't make it. The Delgados say emergency room doctors told them the boy's likely cause of death was "dry drowning," which can happen hours or even days, as in Frankie's case, after a child breathes water into his or her lungs. 

The lungs become irritated and start to fill with fluid, leading to breathing problems and coughing, doctors say. The child's behavior may also change; he or she may get more fatigued than usual. Doctors say all those are signs of possible lack of oxygen flow to the brain. 

Doctors say the phenomenon is extremely rare, but there have been cases. And Tara and Francisco Delgado, despite dealing with their personal horror, want to spread the word about what happened to Frankie. 

"Dry drowning -- bring that out to the world and let everybody know that this exists," Tara Delgado said. "Spread awareness, because I don't want to one to go through what we're going through." 

Photos the Delgados shared of Frankie show a smiling, happy boy with a serious passion for the New York Mets. He's seen wearing a blue and orange Mets cap or shirt in a series of photos, though flips back to the Astros for a Texas game.

Francisco Delgado cried as he reminisced about his constantly grinning boy. 

"I loved him so much," he said. "He was my best friend." 

Funeral services for the boy are scheduled for Saturday in Texas.

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