The Henderson County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement Wednesday that the toddler was pronounced dead at an Asheville hospital the previous night.
The 3-year-old girl reportedly found an unsecured handgun in the car of a guest who visited the family home on Saturday. She was airlifted to a nearby trauma center and had undergone emergency surgery for a gunshot wound to the head before her death on Tuesday.
State and local investigators are deciding whether to file criminal negligence charges, the Sheriff’s Office said in the statement.
Reports: Aylee Gordon Accidentally Shot Herself
According to local reports, Tim Gordon, a retired captain with the Henderson County Sheriff’s Office, alerted authorities at around 2:45 p.m. Christmas Day.
Gordon said his 3-year-old daughter was at their home in rural Edneyville, when she found a firearm in a guest’s vehicle. Aylee was playing with the gun when it misfired, he said.
“She picked up a pistol and shot herself in the head on accident,” he reportedly said in the 911 call obtained by WYFF 4.
“We had a visitor visiting for Christmas. He left a gun in the car,” he explained. “I didn’t know it. She picked it up and it went off.”
Aylee’s father told emergency personnel he was driving her to the local fire department, as he was having trouble getting cellphone reception in Edneyville. From there, the 3-year-old was airlifted to the trauma center at Mission Health hospital in Asheville, some 30 miles north.
The toddler was given emergency brain surgery Saturday and remained in critical condition through the weekend.
“She made it through [Christmas] night heavily sedated,” her mother Anya said.
On a GoFundMe page set up to deal with medical costs, loved ones continued to give updates on Aylee’s status in the days that followed.
“The pressure on Aylee’s brain is very high, and the next 48 hours are very critical,”’ wrote page organizer Denise Hunter on Sunday. “Her doctors are doing everything they can to keep her as stable as possible.”
“We need a miracle for our precious little girl,” her parents said that night.
By Tuesday, the family was still urging well-wishers to keep Aylee in their thoughts.
“Tim and Anya have felt very deeply loved and supported by all of the prayers and encouragement from their friends and the community, and they are very grateful,” read an update on the GoFundMe. “They ask for continued prayers for Aylee and their family.”
But the toddler’s condition continued to deteriorate. Hours after the call for prayer, she died.
“Our beautiful little angel gained her wings last night,” Tim and Anya Gordon wrote in a statement on the crowdfunding page the next morning. “We thank you from the bottom of our hearts for the tremendous support to our family and appreciate continuous prayers.”
In addition to her parents, Aylee Gordon leaves behind a 6-year-old brother.
Members of the community continued to donate to the GoFundMe page even after the toddler’s death was announced. As of Thursday, the Gordons had far surpassed their $5,000 goal and had raised almost $20,000.
North Carolina Officials Eyeing Charges
The Henderson County Sheriff’s Office, where Tim was a senior deputy until his retirement in 2016, confirmed the 3-year-old’s passing in a statement Wednesday.
Officials also said that criminal charges may be filed in connection with the tragedy, pending the results of their investigation.
The findings will be turned over to District Attorney Andrew Murray’s office and the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation, which will determine whether anyone is criminally liable for Aylee’s death.
Neither office returned NBC’s request for comment on Wednesday.