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Citrus Heights Family Says 21-Year-Old Killed by Flu

CITRUS HEIGHTS -- One Citrus Heights living room is filled with hugs of comfort and tears of grief just one day after friends and family of the Yaroshenkos stood in the same spot laughing and celebrating the young man they're now missing -- Yuriy Yaroshenko.

"So all the organs started to shut down, kidneys, heart, and three times they tried to revive," said his father, Peter Yaroshenko.

Through a translator, Yuriy's father says that happened just 19 hours after his son wrapped up his early Sunday afternoon birthday party with family -- his 21st.

He suddenly started feeling ill.

At 1 a.m. Monday he was rushed to Mercy San Juan hospital with a high fever.

Eight hours of intense treatment wasn't able to save his life.

"We are very thankful to the physicians. They did everything possible to save, but God had his own plan," said Peter.

"He was a very kind-hearted, obedient son," said Yuriy's mother Luba.

"Yuriy was a special child,"said Peter Yaroshenko.

Sacramento County has officially recorded three deaths during the 2016-2017 flu season.

There can be a delay in reporting, but no such death has been reported for February 6.

Yuriy's parents maintain their son faced a killer flu and not another illness like meningitis.

"After they tapped into the spinal fluid they determined it was the flu that's causing Yuriy to go down," his father said.

A spokeswoman for Mercy San Juan said the hospital could not disclose any patient information related to this case.

What is known for sure is that Yuriy, seen as the smallest babe in arms in a family picture, was a stellar tenor in the choir of his church, Antelope's Grace Trinity Assembly of God.

He sang as many as four times a week with his five brothers and sisters who settled in Citrus Heights two years ago, religious refugees having fled persecution of Christians in their native Ukraine.

Choir director Elona Shcherba remembered her friend through tears.

"Life radiated from him. He was always, he always had a smile on his face, all the time," she said.

Someday Yuriy wanted to be a train conductor.

It's a goal he will never reach, but with his dedication to his church and his family, those who loved him, feel he reached the most important goal of all.

"I think that's what we take from him... you just live life to the fullest," said Shcherba.

The Yaroshenkos are struggling to care for their other children and confront their grief.

A GoFundMe page has been set up to help them with expenses during this difficult time.