John Gaffney was riding with his family in a Dodge dual-cab pickup truck driven by his father, Kevin Gaffney, 36, of West Islip, on Sunrise Highway in Shirley when the truck was rear-ended by a Scion driven by Steven Kinalis, 30, of Ronkonkoma.
At his arraignment Sunday before the child's death, Kinalis was ordered held on $150,000 cash bail on the charge of driving while under the influence of drugs. The Suffolk County District Attorney's Office did not respond when asked about upgraded charges after the child's death.
The crash occurred at 9:43 a.m. near William Floyd Parkway. It pushed the truck off the road and into a tree, police said.Police said Kinalis was driving while impaired by drugs, which they did not identify.
"This was no freak accident," said John's great-grandmother Phyllis Gaffney, of West Islip.
John was in critical condition after the crash and flown to Stony Brook University Medical Center, where he died.
"We're all washed out," Phyllis Gaffney said. "I had to look at a beautiful 5-year-old boy -- and he was beautiful -- on life support for a day-and-a-half."
“I had five great-grandchildren. Now I have four,” she added.
Also in the truck were Gaffney's wife, Teri, a daughter, 7, and another son, 2. All were treated for non-life-threatening injuries at Stony Brook.
Neighbors said the family had just arrived home from the hospital, were trying to care for their daughter and did not want to speak to media.
Kinalis is due in court Wednesday.
With Emily Ngo and Emily C. Dooley