A man who appeared as Santa Claus at the bedside of a sick boy has told of how the little boy died in his arms.
Eric Schmitt-Matzen from Tennessee said he "cried all the way home" after meeting the five-year-old.
Eric, who works as a Santa impersonator, was called by a nurse to ask him if he could visit the sick boy in hospital.
After meeting the boy's family he went in on his own after telling them he'd break down if any of them started to cry.
Says Eric: 'When I walked in, he was laying there, so weak it looked like he was ready to fall asleep. I sat down on his bed and asked, "Say, what's this I hear about you're gonna miss Christmas? There's no way you can miss Christmas! Why you're my Number One elf"'
Eric says the boy looked up and said: 'I am?'
The boy then told Eric that he was going to die and asked him: 'How can I tell when I get to where I'm going?'
Eric told him: 'When you get there, you tell 'em you're Santa's Number One elf, and I know they'll let you in.'
The boy then gave Santa a big hug and asked one more question: 'Santa, can you help me?'
Says Eric: 'I wrapped my arms around him. Before I could say anything, he died right there. I let him stay, just kept hugging and holding on to him.'
Eric says the family ran in and broke down and he left the room in floods of tears.
He considered stopping his job but at his next appearance the children were laughing. 'It made me realise the role I have to play,' he said.