Boy who was swept into Rutherford County storm drain ‘officially passed away,’ family says

RUTHERFORD COUNTY, Tenn. (WKRN) — More than a week after the son of Rutherford County’s director of schools got caught in a storm drain and was swept under the streets following severe weather, the boy’s family announced he has “officially passed away.”

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Dr. James Sullivan posted the following update about his son, 10-year-old Asher Sullivan, on Facebook, at 10:08 p.m. on Saturday, May 18:

Asher officially passed away this afternoon around 1:20 pm. I say officially because of the events of the last 36 hours:

Asher had one brain stem reflex remaining the last few days that kept him from officially being declared brain dead/deceased. The doctors had told us that they didn’t expect that reflex to go away, but that further improvement beyond maybe a finger moving was not possible. That left Kaycee and I with an impossible decision that deep down we knew we wouldn’t make.

We asked for an additional MRI and that was conducted late Thursday. Kaycee and I met with the neurologists a few rooms away from Asher around 11 yesterday (Friday) morning to have an in-depth discussion. The MRI actually showed further progression of brain damage from five days earlier.

While we were away, Asher’s vitals crashed. His pulse and blood pressure became erratic, he lost the ability to control temperature, and the eye response ceased. Our sweet boy did what Asher has always done, he put others first. No longer did Kaycee and I have to make an impossible decision. Instead, he made it for us while we were out of the room. The doctors performed two extremely in-depth tests that Kaycee and I watched separated by 24 hours. No parent should have to watch this, but we knew for our hearts, we had to. The results showed us what we already knew, that our sweet Asher was already gone.

We are broken-hearted, mad, and every other emotion at the same time.

We are still at Vanderbilt as we’ve decided to have Asher bring life to others as an organ donor. He remains on life support bc of that decision for a few days. It’s 100% an “Asher” type thing to do in continuing to be selfless. He will have an honor walk at the hospital in the next few days and be celebrated as he is, a hero!

RELATED: #SullivanStrong movement spreads across country

Rutherford County Schools posted the following statement on Facebook shortly after Dr. Sullivan made his announcement Saturday night:

Director of Schools Jimmy Sullivan has shared an important update about Asher.

We are all heart-broken for Jimmy, Kaycee and Declan Sullivan in the loss of Asher. We mourn with them during this difficult time, and we will rally around them in the difficult days to come. It has been incredible to witness our community come together to support the Sullivans with prayer vigils, neighborhood cleanups, and with empathy for one another. We know they will need our continued support, and we have no doubt our community will continue to surround them with love and will be there to help share the burden of this tragic loss.


Murfreesboro Mayor Shane McFarland also shared his condolences with the Sullivan family, saying, “Our prayers are with Jimmy, Kaycee and Declan. The Murfreesboro and Rutherford County community is special and I have no doubt will continue to give them prayers, love and support. #Sullivanstrong.”

SEE ALSO: Middle TN honors 10-year-old storm victim with helmet stickers

This news came just hours after dozens of people—including Asher’s fourth grade teachers from Christiana Elementary, who described him as an amazing student—gathered at a Murfreesboro prayer vigil to show their support for the Sullivan family.

“We’ve talked a lot about Asher this week in the classroom, of course, and the kids would tell you that they loved his silly side, that they miss his funny, silly side,” said one of Asher’s teachers, Amber Peneguy. “He was just that kid that if somebody was having a hard time or upset, he would do something funny to make them laugh.”

Asher’s teachers told News 2 that despite his severe brain injury, his friends and classmates had still been hoping for a miracle.

“He became a writer this year and he had lots of things to say in his writings,” said Donna Damron, another one of Asher’s teachers. “His classmates even shared some of his writing most recently as a way of just rallying behind him and loving on him.”

Several close friends of Asher’s grandmother also showed up to the vigil, saying they wouldn’t give up hope and they were praying for God to heal Asher.

“We’re not really family, we are family, and we’re there for them and they know that and we’re thankful for that,” said Gina Baker from Tullahoma.

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A number of local softball and baseball players already honored Asher earlier in the week by decorating their helmets with a sticker of a gold star with the letter ‘A’ inside. The woman printing the stickers said it was inspired by the Vanderbilt University logo since Asher was a big Commodores fan.

The day after Dr. Sullivan announced Asher’s passing, both Mt. Juliet League, Inc. and Nolensville Youth Softball posted this statement on Facebook:

This Friday, May 24th, Please put your bats out, and snap a photo of the bat with or without your player, and upload it with the hashtag #bats4asher. Let’s show Kaycee, Jimmy, Declan and all their extended family and Asher’s friends that they remain in our hearts and prayers.

Asher is hero, his organs are being donated to save lives of others. His father said, “Asher lived more of a life in ten years than most do during a full lifetime. He visited all 50 states (something he was so proud of), visited four countries, played every sport imaginable, was the kindest/gentless soul I’ve ever met, loved EVERYONE, and lived his life on GO at all times. Our nicknames for each other were “squirrel” and “papa squirrel” because we always had to go, go, go and could not focus on one thing. He loved his brother and wanted to be just like him. He was obsessed with his mom and worshiped the ground she walks. His mom was his hero.”

Let’s Lift this family up y’all.

| READ MORE | Latest headlines from Murfreesboro and Rutherford County

On Sunday, May 19, Dr. Sullivan posted another update about Asher:

Words aren’t as eloquent today:

The feeling is surreal. Asher is officially “deceased” with the lack of brain function, but due to organ donation, we are still in the room with him and his heart still beats. TDS is lining up donors so that Asher can promote life in others, but this is painful.

We will conduct an honor walk within the next day or so as we walk Asher down the halls of the hospital to the OR to see him one final time.

To add insult to injury, the Davidson County Medical Examiner will be conducting an examination of Asher’s body…no words…

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According to Dr. Sullivan’s first social media post about the incident that sent Asher to the hospital, while neighbors in Christiana were helping to clean up after the storm on Wednesday, May 8, the kids were playing in the water in the streets: “Somehow, Asher got caught in the storm drain and was swept under the neighborhood streets. He eventually came out in a drainage ditch and CPR was administered for quite some time. His heart beat was reestablished but the damage is substantial.”

For more than a week, the director of Rutherford County Schools provided updates at least once a day on social media about Asher’s condition, especially his brain, and continued to ask for prayers from the community.

Not only did the Rutherford County community show its support for Asher and his family, but the movement made waves across social media with #SullivanStrong, reaching people across the country.

A GoFundMe has been set up for Sullivan family. If you’d like to donate, follow this link.

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