CHESTER - Just a block from where Tyler Simpson was seriously injured in a car accident Nov. 18, family and friends sold "Team Tyler" T-shirts on Saturday to help cover the boy's medical expenses.
A group of Tyler's cousins, bundled up in coats and hats during Saturday's Chester Hometown Christmas Celebration, started out the day with 50 donated shirts. "Within one or two hours, they were all gone," said Maddison McPherson, 18, of Chester, a cousin.
It's the kind of community support that has been growing for the 14-year-old boy and his family ever since the tragic accident on an early but dark Sunday evening two weeks ago.
An unidentified woman orders a “Team Tyler” T-shirt on Saturday to help cover the medical expenses of Tyler Simpson, seriously injured in an accident two weeks ago today. Taking her order are (from left) family friend Miranda Six, 18, cousin Maddison McPherson, 18, cousin Karraghan Taylor, 16, and cousin Logan Taylor, 13, all of Chester. The table was set up in front of Janette’s Barber Shop, 428 Carolina Ave., during the annual Chester Hometown Christmas Celebration. (Photo by Stephen Huba)
Tyler, an eighth-grader at Oak Glen Middle School, suffered head and brain injuries after being run over by a trailer being pulled by a pickup truck driven by Jason R. Juszczak, 37, of New Cumberland, Chester police said.
Tyler remains in critical condition in the intensive care unit of Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh, Taylor said.
Family members are still puzzling over the accident, even as they struggle to cope with the seriousness of the injuries to Tyler.
"We believe it was a total accident," said Tyler's aunt Rachael Taylor, 40, of Chester, who said she's like a mother to the boy. "From what the police have said, he hit the tail end of the trailer."
Taylor said Tyler was crossing Carolina Avenue in front of Hancock County Savings Bank and may have been hampered by a recent ankle sprain. "We don't know if maybe his shoes were not tied. Maybe he tripped. Maybe he lost his balance," she said.
Compounding the tragedy is the fact that Tyler's mother, grandmother, sister, brother and several friends witnessed the accident, Taylor said.
"He was never alone. My sister was right there," Taylor said, speaking of Tyler's mother, Allison Scarry.
That night, Tyler was at his aunt's house and decided to meet up with some friends - a cadre of Chester boys who like to hang out and play basketball and football after school. Taylor lives just a block away from where the accident happened.
At Taylor's suggestion, Tyler's mother drove him to the bank in a car loaded up with his grandmother, brother, 10, and sister, 6. Across the street, sitting on the steps of First Presbyterian Church, were Tyler's friends, waiting for him.
Some of the friends had just come over from Chester City Park, said Lacey Bramhall, whose son, Mitchell, witnessed the accident. "It was horrible," Bramhall said.
"They sat there and watched him go across the street," Taylor said. "I couldn't even imagine seeing this happen. ... It's scary."
Paramedics from Chester-Newell Ambulance found Tyler's unresponsive body in the roadway and took him to a staging area at Chester City Park. From there, he was flown by Air Evac Lifeteam to Pittsburgh.
Tyler has been paralyzed and in an induced coma since then, Taylor said. "He's in bad shape," she said. "It's been a rough road."
Doctors operated on Tyler soon after his arrival at Children's Hospital, taking out a piece of his skull and implanting a titanium plate, Taylor said. They now want to take him off his coma medication and see how he does.
"He's still fighting," said Taylor, who's barely left his hospital bedside in two weeks.
Taylor said Tyler is an average student who likes to play video games and ride scooters. He especially enjoys hanging out with his friends after school. "They're nice kids. They never get into trouble," she said.
On Saturday, some of those friends set up a table at the Chester Hometown Christmas Celebration to sell "Team Tyler" T-shirts and take donations, which will go to defray the family's medical expenses.
Bramhall showed up at the table on Saturday with a roll of plastic tablecloth that she is asking people to sign as a sort-of giant "get well" card. "When I heard they were doing this, I decided it might be better to do it here so the community can sign it and not just students," she said.
Bramhall said she didn't want to limit the card to just Tyler's classmates because of what happened at a recent "meet the team" night at the middle school. During a moment of silence for Tyler, she said, some "ignorant" students made inappropriate comments.
Bramhall hopes to get a lot of signatures because "there are so many people in the community praying for him as well."