Family: Second twin passes away

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) -- On Tuesday, Children's Hospital released a statement from the family of the Orejuela twins who were pulled from their babysitter's pool. According to the family, Elijah has passed away.

Elyssa and Elijah's mother, Amelia Wieand, wrote, “After much heartbreak, Elijah has gone to be with his sister Elyssa. They were formed together in my womb and came into this world together. Both kids were extremely strong. She was his other half."

Wieand continued, "They were soul mates and never apart. Even in death they were together. He [Elijah] would have never been complete here on Earth without his other half. I know right now they are in Heaven being mischievous and giggling."

The statement, released through Children's Hospital, continued, "I’ll never understand this, and I’m not sure how to live with this pain. But to prevent another family from suffering this immeasurable pain, today Elijah became a superhero. He donated his organs to save others’ lives."

Wieand ended by thanking the community, "I can’t thank you enough for the support we have been given knowing that our babies were loved by so many and touched others’ lives. Thanks again for everyone’s support and prayers. We would also like to thank the staff at Children’s Hospital for showing so much compassion.”

On Monday morning, the family was still holding on to hope that Elijah would survive. Enrique Orejuela told WVLT News Monday morning that his son, Elijah "Eli" Orejuela, was still on life support despite earlier reports from Children's Hospital that the boy died Sunday afternoon.

"My son is still with us," Orejula told WVLT News in a phone call Sunday night. "We have plans for the good and the bad news, but my son is alive...I just walked out of my son's room. He is on life support. I was just playing with his hair and put his stuffed animal right next to him."

Eli and his twin sister Elyssa were taken to East Tennessee Children's Hospital Friday morning after they were pulled from their babysitter's pool in West Knoxville.

The babysitter, Jennifer Salley, had operated an in-home daycare called "OM Baby" out of the residence since 2015, according to the Tennessee County Clerk's Office. In May, the Department of Human Services served Salley with an order to "cease conducting a child care center inside of her home."

At the time of the drownings, Salley's own two children were in the custody of family members. Why she didn't have custody of her children is unknown at this time.

Following the incident at Salley's pool, the Knox County Sheriff's Office said the first twin, Elyssa, died Friday night.

Sunday afternoon, a spokesperson for East Tennessee Children's Hospital told WVLT News that Eli had passed away. The Knox County Sheriff's Office also reported on its Facebook page that the toddler died Sunday afternoon.

Late Sunday night, the twin's father told WVLT News that information was not correct. It's unclear where the discrepancy came from. Orejuela suggested there may have been a miscommunication after, "There was a scare at one point."

Orejuela praised the doctors at East Tennessee Children's Hospital and said the entire staff had been extremely helpful during such a difficult time.

Orejuela described his daughter Elyssa, who passed away Friday night, as the apple of his eye. "She's daddy's little girl. She's very outspoken. She's definitely a leader. She's very independent and strong. And she was definitely a daddy's princess," he told WVLT News.

When asked about the prognosis of his son Eli, Orejuela said, "I know that my son's in a difficult position right now and I know that my son is being the toughest fighter he can be, because he has since he was little. I don't know what the chances are honestly. I'm just out here in the dark."

Orejuela said, "My kids are my greatest accomplishment. Period. They are happy babies. There wasn't a moment that my kids ever knew sadness or heartbreak. My kids are always happy. Anybody and everybody who's ever known my kids knew they are goofballs and mischievous. Sunshine to any cloudy days."

Orejuela said he and his girlfriend, Amelia Wieand, who's also the mother of the twins, appreciate the support they've received from the community. "Having the amount of family and friends and support that we do from my rugby team, work, and family is incredible."

A GoFundMe page had already raised more than $14,000 dollars as of Sunday night.

Orejuela said, "If anyone can take anything out of this, just hug your kids tight because you'll never know when you'll lose a daughter like I did Friday."

Tragedy unfolded Friday when emergency crews were called to the 8000 block of Fox Lonas Road, according to Rural Metro Fire. Salley reportedly told the Knox County Sheriff's Office that another child arrived around 10 a.m. and that's when she noticed the twins were missing. They were found in the deep end of the pool.

Rural Metro Fire said adults pulled the twins from the pool and began CPR until officials arrived. The kids were taken to East Tennessee Children's Hospital by ambulance.

Orejuela said he had no had any contact with Salley since Friday.