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Girl died of natural causes after playing at Monkey Joe’s, police say

Erin Washington, 3, died Saturday after playing at the Monkey Joe’s in Matthews.
Erin Washington, 3, died Saturday after playing at the Monkey Joe’s in Matthews. GoFundMe

The 3-year-old girl who was rushed to the hospital Saturday after playing at Monkey Joe’s died of natural causes, medical examiners have found.

“Therefore this case will be closed with no foul play or negligence found from this investigation,” a statement issued Monday afternoon by the Matthews Police Department said.

Video footage taken at the Monkey Joe’s in Matthews shows no accidents or injuries occurring shortly before the girl died, a company spokesperson said.

Matthews police said someone called 911 about a girl “in distress” at 4:53 p.m. on Saturday, according to the Observer’s news partner, WBTV. The girl was taken to a hospital and later died. Police have not released details about what killed the girl.

Kelly Ronna, a spokesperson for Monkey Joe’s, said Monday the company has gotten no indications about what caused the girl’s death.

“We have viewed the video footage,” Ronna said. “… There’s no evidence of an accident or injury at our facility.”

A GoFundMe account set up to cover funeral expenses identified the girl as Erin Shardè Washington, the daughter of Eric and Nykeshia Washington.

“She was the most hilarious little girl,” says a statement on the GoFundMe account. “Although she was only 3 years old, she touched more lives than people who live to be 100.”

The statement goes on to say the family needs help with the financial burden of the funeral so it can focus on grieving. “Anything helps whether it’s through donating, sharing or simply just praying for them.” The account had far surpassed its $4,000 goal at 7:45 p.m. Monday, raising more than $7,600, along with heartfelt messages from many of the more than 200 donors.

“I wanted you guys to know that I was across the hall from you in the ER,” wrote donor Amy Purser. “We could hear your cries. We didn’t know what was going on but we knew you were hurting bad. Since the news has broke, we were able to put the puzzle pieces into place. I wanted to hug all of you as we were leaving.”

Wrote donor Amy Todd: “God needed an angel as precious as your little Erin.”

“She was a beautiful, funny and danced all the time,” added donor Tacara Foster.

Monkey Joe’s is a play and party area for children. The company’s website says trained staff observe all play areas but parents are encouraged to monitor their children at all times. There are separate play areas for children 3 and younger.

On Sunday, Monkey Joe’s released a statement: “We are deeply saddened by the passing of a young child in our facility yesterday. Our thoughts and prayers are with this child’s family and friends during this difficult time.”

The company also told WBTV that the child was “not in distress on an inflatable or engaging in any arcade games.”

Ames Alexander: 704-358-5060, @amesalex