Rodeo star Spencer Wright's 3-year-old son, Levi, has died following toy tractor accident

Spencer Wright holds his son.
Rodeo star Spencer Wright's 3-year-old son, Levi, has died less than two weeks after the toddler accidentally drove his toy tractor into a river. (Photo: Facebook)

Levi Wright, the 3-year-old son of rodeo star Spencer Wright, has died after being taken off life support, family friend and spokesperson Mindy Sue Clark shared on Facebook on Monday. Levi had been sedated and on a breathing machine for 12 days after sustaining a severe brain injury as a result of accidentally driving his toy tractor into a Utah river on May 21, according to People. “After several sleepless nights, lots of research, multiple conversations with the world’s best neurologists [and] millions of prayers we are here in the face of our biggest fear,” the boy’s mother, Kallie Wright, wrote in a June 2 Facebook post in which she shared that her family had made the difficult decision to “[let] him go.”

Here’s what to know about Levi’s story.

After driving his toy tractor into a Utah river, the little boy was pulled from the water and “life-saving measures were administered on the scene,” by emergency responders, according to a press release shared on Facebook by the Beaver County Sheriff's Department. It’s unclear whether Levi hit his head in the accident, or if he inhaled water. He was taken to Beaver Valley Hospital and subsequently transferred to Primary Children’s Hospital in Salt Lake City, where he remained in critical condition.

Family friend Clark shared via Facebook on May 22 that Levi’s heart was “beating on its own,” according to E! News. Clark added that the boy “has a will to breathe but his sweet little brain was without oxygen too long and there is no coming back from that.” She continued, “We cuddled him all night and feel strongly that his spirit is no longer with us. We can't be selfish and drag this out for days, he doesn't deserve that. Shortly we will stop care and hold him close until his last breath on earth.”

Doctors monitored Levi’s brain activity using an electroencephalogram (EEG), according to another update posted by Clark. But there was little change, Kallie wrote on Facebook, noting that her son “did not handle it" well when doctors tried to wean him off of sedation. He was sedated again to keep him “comfortable” and underwent another MRI, she wrote.

But, by June 2, the family had made the decision to withdraw life support.

Clark’s first update, explaining that Levi’s brain had been without oxygen for too long, suggests that he developed cerebral hypoxia. “While there is little information about what occurred, it seems that the incident resulted in a loss of necessary oxygen to the brain, the effects of which can be devastating,” Dr. Joey Gee, a neurologist at Providence Mission Hospital, tells Yahoo Life. “The brain can only go without oxygen for a matter of minutes before certain brain cells may start to show injury from hypoxia or anoxia. They then start to die.” The condition of someone with cerebral hypoxia can rapidly deteriorate, according to the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.

The Wright family noted that, while Levi was sedated, doctors worked hard to keep his body cool and combat fever-like symptoms, an approach that, Gee says, is used to help protect the brain and other organs after a traumatic injury. However, “if there is a prolonged loss of oxygen to the brain, the effects can be global,” Gee explains. “If the brain activity remains silent and important brainstem activity is lost, the brain may be in a state of cerebral brain death.”

Alternatively, they may still have activity in their brainstem — which controls basic vital functions like breathing, consciousness and heart rate — but the person may be in a “persistent vegetative state,” says Gee.

It can result from a number of health issues and accidents, according to Mount Sinai. These include drowning, choking, smoke inhalation, airway obstruction and diseases such as ALS.

“While I do not know the details of this tragic case, it appears that nearly two weeks have elapsed since Levi Wright [had his accident], which is a sufficient time to determine a long-term prognosis,” Dr. Jared Ross, an emergency care physician and founder and president of EMSEC, tells Yahoo Life.

Accidents are the leading cause of death among children ages 14 and younger, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And one 2019 study (conducted by a foremost expert in pediatric neurocritical care) found that brain death occurred in more than 20% of deaths among children admitted to pediatric intensive care units. The majority of those, according to the study, were due to the oxygen supply being cut off in children or infants.