Originally created 07/31/05

Baby dies after 2 wrecks hinder rush to hospital

Tyrion Gaffney's blue-trimmed bassinet is shut away in the closet now.

The bassinet is where his mother, Beatrice Pinckney, found her 6-week-old son face down and lifeless Saturday morning.

For 37 minutes, Tyrion's parents fought to save his life, but fate seemed against the new family as Ms. Pinckney and the child's father, Tyshaun Gaffney, drove frantically to Medical College of Georgia Hospital.

But two accidents slowed them.

The tragedy unfolded at 9:30 a.m. when Ms. Pinckney ran out of the master bedroom in her home in River Glen Apartments, clutching Tyrion and shouting, "Mama, something's wrong with him!" said Ms. Pinckney's mother, Bennie Lee, 57.

Tyrion was motionless and cold, but the real giveaway that something was seriously wrong was the way his eyes were shut so tightly, Ms. Lee said.

"He looked like he was dead, then," she said.

Ms. Lee dialed 911, but Mr. Gaffney and Ms. Pinckney, who had spent the night in a bed next to Tyrion's bassinet, were already driving away in an Oldsmobile Intrigue.

At 11th and Telfair streets, the Intrigue collided with a Ford pickup driven by Richard Lee Owen, 56, of Augusta, Richmond County sheriff's Investigator Steve Fanning said.

Bobby Blake saw the wreck in the rearview mirror of his Dodge truck and turned around to stop and help.

"He came running up to the truck and said, 'Take me to the hospital, my baby's dead,'" Mr. Blake said. "I said, 'Let's call the police, let's get some help.'"

But Mr. Blake got out of his truck, and Mr. Gaffney jumped in with Tyrion and Ms. Pinckney and drove off.

Before Mr. Gaffney could get to MCG, he had a crash at 15th Street near the entrance to Calhoun Expressway. This time, he hit a pickup driven by Robert Daniel Bryant, of North Augusta.

The family's efforts couldn't save Tyrion, who was pronounced dead at 10:07 a.m. at MCG, said Richmond County Deputy Coroner Charlena Graham.

An autopsy will be performed Monday at the Georgia Bureau of Investigation crime lab on Phinizy Road, Ms. Graham said.

Family members said Saturday night that they believe Tyrion, who was born June 20, tried to turn his face while he slept and somehow didn't turn fully.

Police officers told them Tyrion probably aspirated because they found a small circle of blood in the bassinet, said Ms. Pinckney's sister, Katoya Pinckney.

Beatrice Pinckney and Mr. Gaffney spent Saturday in the hospital being treated for injuries from the accident.

Ms. Pinckney told her mother she would not be returning to the apartment that night, Ms. Lee said.

Mr. Blake said Mr. Gaffney apologized to him at the hospital for taking the truck.

"I thought that was very courageous," Mr. Blake said.

Mr. Blake told police he did not want to press charges for the taking of his truck.

"The boy has lost more. Why add more insult to injury? You can't do more to him than what's happened," he said.

"If it had been a calmer situation, he wouldn't have taken my truck."

Sgt. Steve Strickland said Mr. Gaffney was cited with running a red light in the first accident but was not charged in the second or for taking Mr. Blake's truck.

"Had it not been for the severity of the damage of the vehicles and the injury of one of the passengers, we probably would have let it go, considering the circumstances," he said.

Katoya Pinckney and Ms. Lee don't think the traffic accidents caused the family to lose precious time on the way to the hospital.

They believe Tyrion, whose toddler sister, Destiny, called "Ty-Ty" and "baby," was dead.

"He was a blessing," Katoya said. "He'll be missed."

Reach Jeremy Craig at (706) 823-3409 or jeremy.craig@augustachronicle.com or Kate Lewis at (706) 823-3215 or kate.lewis@augustachronicle.com.


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