THIS is the tragic moment a Santa impersonator collapses with a fatal heart attack in front of screaming children.
Harrowing footage shows the Father Christmas actor energetically performing with nursery kids – before he suddenly stands still and falls backwards.
Some of the youngsters thought it was part of the game, which involved them touching their noses, and rushed towards him.
But the impersonator had collapsed next to the decorated Christmas tree suffering from a debilitating cardiac arrest.
Another cast member – a woman dressed as a clown – is seen rushing behind the tree to help the stricken Santa.
As staff comforted the young students, he was rushed to hospital in the Russian city of Kemerovo but died on the way, a medical source said.
The man has since been named as Valery Titenko, 67 – a well-known professional actor in the Siberian city around 2,200 miles east of Moscow.
It was revealed today that he had not been feeling well and had complained of chest pains in the hours leading up to the performance.
But Mr Titenko did not want to let the children down – so decided to perform for them anyway.
A spokesman at the Musical Theatre of Kuzbass, where he was a star, said: “In recent years his health was not ideal.
“He had been through complicated heart surgery, but still performed on the stage and had been working at full capacity, not sparing himself.”
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He had been given a day off from the theatre but insisted on attending the children’s festive party.
“The man felt ill in the kindergarten,” said a medical source.
“He was taken in an ambulance but died on the way to the hospital.”
In Russia by a tradition dating to Soviet times, Santa gives presents to children at midnight on New Year’s Eve.
He is usually dressed in red but can also wear blue costume.
He does not ride in a sleigh but is usually accompanied by a young female companion called Snegurochka – or snow maiden.