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Infant dies of SIDS after being found unresponsive at Grand Forks day care, family says

An infant died last week of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, or SIDS, after being found unresponsive at a Grand Forks day care, according to the child's family.

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An infant died last week of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, or SIDS, after being found unresponsive at a Grand Forks day care, according to the child’s family.

Gunnar Matthew Steen, who was almost 6 months old, died Friday at Sanford Children’s Hospital in Fargo after being found unresponsive Thursday afternoon at Hopeful Beginnings on 17th Avenue South.

Steen’s obituary said he received “excellent care from day care staff and emergency response teams,” but they were unable to revive him for over an hour. Grand Forks Police Lt. Brett Johnson said there’s nothing to indicate anything criminal or suspicious behind Steen’s death.

Steen, the son of Jon and Natalia Steen, was born May 3 at Altru Hospital in Grand Forks, according to his obituary.

An online fundraiser on the website YouCaring seeking to “relieve the financial stress of medical and funeral costs and to allow (Steen’s) parents to take the appropriate time off work” had raised $12,700 as of 2 p.m. Monday.

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“We are overwhelmed by the enormous amount of support and generosity by so many of you,” Jon and Natalia Steen wrote in a note on the fundraising page Sunday. “Feeling so alone in this time and seeing the gifts from so many different people is incredible.”

Steen “loved to giggle and smile,” his obituary said, and he was known to splash and try to drink bath water during his bath time.

“Gunnar brought joy to so many friends and family,” the obituary said.

Tim Goetz, Gunnar Steen’s grandfather, called the infant a “happy kid.” He said the medical examiner is doing an investigation, but “everything points to SIDS.”

SIDS is the sudden death of a child who is less than 1 year old and “cannot be explained after a thorough investigation is conducted,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About 1,500 infants in the U.S. died of SIDS in 2014, and it’s the leading cause of death for infants between the ages of 1 and 12 months old.

In a Facebook message to the Herald, Natalia Steen said she wants to raise awareness of SIDS.

“It can happen to anybody even if we do everything right,” she said. “Enjoy your babies every minute and hug them tight.”

The Rev. Paul Knight of Hope Church, which Hopeful Beginnings is affiliated with, said a grief counselor was brought in for staff. The child care center was open Monday morning, he said.

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“Clearly the staff is struggling and devastated,” Knight said. “The family is clearly devastated, but is in a strong relationship with the Lord and the church.”

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