Fort Collins family mourns 5-year-old who died in tragic backyard accident: “There wasn’t a day we didn’t dance”

To her Fort Collins family, 5-year-old Aurora Rae Masters shone like a beacon of light.

Aurora Masters, 5, of Fort Collins, died May 13, 2024, five days after a tragic backyard accident. (Photo provided by Masters family)

“She came along when I was at a really bad mental health place,” Tom Masters, Aurora’s father, told The Denver Post in an interview Monday, explaining how Aurora had reignited his passion for life. “It felt like there was something almost magical about her.”

But on May 8, Aurora was critically injured after being strangled by a disc swing she was playing with in her backyard, an incident the Fort Collins Police Department called a “tragic accident.” She was taken to the pediatric intensive care unit at Children’s Hospital Colorado in Aurora, according to updates the family posted on their GoFundMe page.

Around 20 family and friends from Wyoming, Nebraska and Kansas flocked to her bedside.

On May 11, an MRI revealed Aurora had permanent brain damage from having received insufficient oxygen. Aurora’s family transitioned her to end-of-life care and she died May 13.

That weekend, the aurora borealis had illuminated Colorado’s night sky in multicolored waves.

“I’ve never seen a pink aurora borealis, and when I was looking later, according to what I could find on the internet, pink aurora borealis is due to a lack of oxygen, which is how my daughter’s brain got hurt,” Krystal Masters, Aurora’s mother, said in an interview. “The aurora itself, over Aurora, the city where my Aurora was (in the hospital), and it was pink. It just felt like a little nod of like, ‘Hey, I’m OK.’”

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Aurora’s magnetic personality and effervescent spirit created community everywhere she went, her parents said. In 2019, Tom brought Aurora to several open mic nights and she would dance, sing and clap along with performers, becoming affectionately known as “the music baby.” The Masters family made lasting connections at those open mics, and Tom and Krystal attribute the creation of that steadfast community to Aurora.

“It would have just been a bunch of passing ships in the night, but people stopped and kind of zoomed in because Aurora was so magnetic,” Tom said.

Aurora Masters, 5, of Fort Collins, with her father Tom Masters. She died May 13, 2024, five days after a tragic backyard accident. (Photo provided by Masters family)

In the past two weeks, Tom and Krystal have been inundated by anecdotes about their little girl — the only child the two had together — as friends and acquaintances share the impact Aurora had on them.

“I’m hearing all these stories that she was like that for everybody,” Tom said. “She literally just had fun and went around and brought her light with her and gave it away for free.”

“Aurora had the biggest, warmest spirit I’ve seen. Her energy impacted everyone around her with smiles and laughter,” wrote Rachel Brady, a colleague of Krystal’s mother, on the family’s GoFundMe page.

“Aurora would always give my little boy, Charlie, hugs and was the first to recognize him as a member of the congregation, even though he was only a year old,” wrote Natalia Lynch, who attended the same church as the Masters. “I’ll miss watching their interactions and seeing her sit so proudly in the front row.”

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Through the GoFundMe, organized by Aurora’s great aunt Brenda Kennedy, the community raised more than $31,000 for the Masters family. The funds will be used for an end-of-life celebration and memorial service, and any money left over will be donated to organizations in Aurora’s honor, according to updates posted to the page.

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“There will be a funeral service at a church, but there will be a celebration of life that is for all of the 4-, 5-, and 6-year-olds that this little one has touched, and even older kids,” Krystal said. “It will hopefully involve the Ghostbusters and Star Wars cosplayers in town, some princesses. Dance parties were her favorite thing. There wasn’t a day we didn’t dance.”

And we’re just going to celebrate everything that Aurora was and let these children have a good time and remember her,” she added.

In the midst of their grief, Krystal and Tom wanted to remind parents to cherish every moment with their children.

“We got the disc swing because it was very safe,” Krystal said. “I guess what I would say to parents is: Love your kid every minute, have a dance party and just live life. Because you never know when it’s going away.”

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