MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The father of the 2-year-old boy who died after being in a wrong-way crash on Interstate 494 is sharing memories of his son’s short life.
For Phillip Merrill, pictures of his son, Payton, are the bright spots after a week overshadowed in grief.
“It’s a good memory,” Phillip said while looking at a picture of him and his son. “Such a happy guy.”
The snapshots capture an energetic little boy who already had a big personality at just two years old.
“He loved everything, he was always smiling, [saying to everyone] ‘Hi! Hi!’ He always liked to say ‘hi,'” Phillip said.
Happy memories can also become a reminder of loss, and nothing can prepare a parent for the death of a child.
“Two state troopers showed up at my house around 6 o’ clock in the morning, and they’re like, ‘Are you Phil Merrill?’ I’m like, ‘Yeah.’ And they’re like, ‘We have some very bad news,'” he said.
It was Dec. 3, when Phillip learned of the crash on the Highway 5 ramp to I-494 near MSP Airport. A wrong-way driver hit a Jeep, critically injuring the little boy.
Payton’s mother and grandmother, Dylan Bailey and Dawn Chiodo, did not survive.
The 2-year-old spent the next week fighting for his life in the hospital, before losing that battle last Friday.
Phillip agreed to donate Payton’s organs, which helped eight other children.
“That was like the only thing keeping me going,” Phillip said. “That I know that he could save lives.”
He has yet to find a way to manage the grief-filled days of looking at pictures, where the memory of his child lives on.
“We’re trying to deal with this, and they’re in a better place. He’s with his grandma and his mom,” Phillip said.
The Minnesota State Patrol is still investigating the crash. Three other people, including the driver of the other vehicle, were critically injured.
An account has been set up at Wells Fargo to help Phillip cover the medical and funeral costs. Those wishing to help can go into any branch and donate to the “Payton Bailey Fund.”