[Ed. – Followup up story presented here.]
The Knoxville News Sentinel first reported the tear-jerking story that quickly went viral: a man who played Santa Claus granted the final wish of a terminally ill boy who later died in his arms. But the News Sentinel now says they cannot confirm the story was accurate, and although they have attempted to verify key details of the man’s account, they have been unable to do so.
Santa Claus actor Eric Schmitt-Matzen emotionally told and retold the same basic story to various cable news outlets this week, explaining that a nurse he knew who worked at a local hospital called him one evening and asked him to drive to the hospital and visit a very sick little boy who was terminally ill. Schmitt-Matzen said he met the boy’s mother outside the hospital room, where she gave him a toy and asked him to give the toy to the young boy as a Christmas present. He told news outlets that after a brief, heartwarming conversation, the boy passed away in his arms.
But in an update published Wednesday, the newspaper said after further digging, they discovered they could not establish accuracy of Schmitt-Matzen’s account.