FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) --Family members of a North Valley man are suing a local hospital because they say the medical staff gave him a lethal dose of painkillers.
If Steven Santora was alive right now he would be celebrating his birthday. Instead on Thursday his family gathered at a Winton Cemetery where they wrote messages on balloons to mark the milestone and mourn the 34 year-old's death.
"He was just a fun loving guy. He was a big kid at heart. He would help anybody out. He loved his kids," said Denise Santora who was in a relationship with him.
She said she took the Atwater man to Mercy Medical Center in Merced for stomach pains in August last year where he was admitted and died two days later.
"They told me he had expired and I didn't quite understand that so I kept saying, what do you mean, he left? When they told me I didn't believe it because he was so young," Santora added.
A lawsuit filed on behalf of Santora's three children claims he was injected with an IV containing a painkiller called Hydromorphone. The family's attorney shared a toxicology report which they believe shows Santora was given a toxic and lethal dose of the drug.
"It took 7 months for the report to come back and the coroner is the one who told me what happened," added Santora.
In addition the lawsuit claims doctors and nurses didn't check up on him regularly. The civil suit also says no one noticed the drug was causing him to stop breathing.
"It's affected me a lot from going to see someone every day and then having them not there," said Santora.
In a statement a hospital spokesperson said, "Due to pending litigation we are unable to comment about the case."
The Santora family says they are coming forward to prevent anything similar from happening to anyone else.