Instagram inspiration and Stevenson Ranch resident, 5-year-old PJ Reynafarje, died on Tuesday in an ambulance after choking inside of Ralphs, according to a post made on PJ’s Instagram and Los Angeles County Coroner’s Office officials.
PJ was with his mother Crystal Kouri Reynafarje shopping inside of the Ralphs on Pico Canyon Road at approximately 2:50 p.m. when the incident occurred, according to Brian Elias, a spokesman for the L.A. County Coroner’s Office.
According to an Instagram post made on @pjs_playhouse by Crystal, PJ had been eating uncut, whole grapes and choked.
“I always cut his grapes in half, being that he has a small, obstructed airway,” read the Instagram post. “I carry a de-choking device with me at all times. I carry an intubation kit with me at all times. And yesterday, while shopping in the supermarket, I allowed him to eat whole grapes — uncut. He choked.”
Crystal then utilized her de-choking device and proceeded to administer CPR, something she is certified in as well as first aid, according to the Instagram post.
“PJ was without air too long before EMS arrived and flatlined in the ambulance,” read the Instagram post.
Emergency room workers spent 40 minutes trying to revive PJ, but they were unsuccessful.
“The child was transported to an area hospital where he was pronounced deceased,” wrote Elias in an email to The Signal. “We do not have any additional information at this time.”
PJ was born with Treacher Collins syndrome, which many people are familiar with through Auggie Pullman, the fictional character from the movie and book, “Wonder.” The syndrome affects facial development, often leading to difficulties breathing, eating, hearing and seeing.
Treacher Collins is extremely rare, affecting only one in 50,000 people. PJ was featured in a May 2021 feature in The Signal, in which his mother described how she hoped his story would teach others to be kinder and more accepting of differences.
PJ and his mother traveled to schools across the country as certified “Wonder Speakers” with the Children’s Craniofacial Association, reading “Wonder” and answering questions about PJ’s differences for students from kindergarten through second grade, while raising funds to help other kids with Treacher Collins.
PJ was born on Dec. 16, 2017, and pronounced dead on Jan. 31, 2023.
“I will be posting some wonderful memories soon, but for now we are all beyond devastated,” read the Instagram post.
A GoFundMe has been established to support PJ’s family. To view and contribute, visit https://gofund.me/b5816966.