Father, 10-month-old son found dead in car outside Georgia Waffle House

BUTTS COUNTY, Ga. — Police say a young father and his 10-month-old son died after being found unresponsive in a car in front of a Butts County Waffle House.

Police were called to the Waffle House on Highway 36 Saturday around 6:30 a.m. after someone reported multiple people passed out inside the car. Police found a man in the driver’s seat, a woman in the passenger’s seat and a baby in a car seat in the back seat.

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The driver, Christopher Gage McKinzie, 26, was not breathing and was removed from the vehicle. Emergency responders performed CPR but McKinzie was pronounced dead at the scene.

The infant, 10-month-old Sawyer Gage McKinzie, was also not breathing and pronounced dead at the scene.

The woman had a faint pulse and was taken to the hospital in critical condition. Police identified her as Kortnie Payne.


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Channel 2′s Tyisha Fernandes spoke to police, who said McKinzie worked at the Waffle House and got off of work around midnight. He then drove to his mother’s house to pick up the baby, then back to the Waffle House to wait for Payne, his girlfriend, to get off of work.

Payne got in the car around 2:30 a.m., police said. Investigators think she thought the father and son were asleep and fell asleep herself.

McKinzie’s mother found all three passed out in the car around 6 a.m. and called police.

Police said they believe a carbon monoxide leak in the car lead to the McKinzie’s deaths.

“Checking the exhaust system on the car, we were figuring that more than likely, it was carbon monoxide,” lead investigator Richard Gandy said. “The car was found with the switch on but it wasn’t running.”

Investigators said McKinzie knew there was a problem with the exhaust and had already bought the parts to fix it, but they hadn’t come yet. Gandy said McKinzie likely had no idea that the problem could be deadly.

“This snuck up on them, and I suspect they never even knew it,” Gandy said.

Gandy let Fernandes look at the car. It still had yellow caution tape around it on Thursday because the carbon monoxide levels were so high they didn’t want anyone to get near the car.

Police said an exhaust pipe that was supposed to let the deadly gas out was cut off underneath the car, which caused it to fill with fumes.

Family members said Sawyer McKinzie is survived by his mother, Kristi Marie Walker.

“She’s devastated, you know. Shocked,” Gandy said.

McKinzie had worked at the Waffle House for a decade, according to his obituary. He grew up in Forsyth and graduated from Mary Persons High School in 2013.

The family has set up a GoFundMe to help with funeral expenses.

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