Timothy Wright's family seeking donations

Gospel singer injured, wife & grandson killed
August 5, 2008 6:24:37 PM PDT
The family of a Grammy-nominated gospel singer critically injured in a car crash that killed his wife and grandson made an appeal Tuesday for donations to help pay for his medical care. The Rev. Timothy Wright has exhausted his health insurance coverage and could require as much as $500,000 to cover medical costs over the next several months, according to Laurie Schneider, a spokeswoman for Wright's family.

The 61-year-old Wright is undergoing rehabilitation at the Kessler Institute for injuries stemming from the July 4 crash in central Pennsylvania. He was returning from Detroit after promoting an autobiography he had written and giving a concert when his car was struck by a driver heading the wrong way on Interstate 80 in Greene Township, Pa.

Wright's wife, Betty, 58, and their 14-year-old grandson, D.J., were killed. The driver of the other car, John Pick, 44, of Lewisburg, Pa., also died. Two people in a third car involved in the accident were treated and released from the hospital. A police report concluded that alcohol may have been a factor in Pick's driving the wrong way on the highway.

Wright suffered a severe C4 spinal cord injury and has been on a respirator since the accident, though his family said the respirator can be removed for an hour each day, allowing him to speak.

Wright can move his neck and has feeling in his upper arms and shoulders, Schneider said. She declined to give additional details about Wright's condition.

He was able to sit upright in a wheelchair for the first time over the weekend, according to the family.

"He's doing better every day," Wright's son, David, said.

"He's improving, little by little. It's been very rough, but God has given us the strength to get through this."

Joining Tuesday's appeal was the Rev. Al Sharpton, who said he has known Wright and his wife since his youth and on Tuesday referred to Wright as "the godfather of gospel."

"As he emerged as this mega-gospel star, he never changed who he was," Sharpton said. "No matter how big his records got, he still was available to the community. Now it's our time to help out the godfather."

Wright is expected to be on the respirator for four to six more weeks before he can breathe on his own, and may have to remain at Kessler for at least four months, doctors said.

According to Schneider, the driver who hit Wright's car only had $5,000 in liability insurance. Wright's auto insurance policy provided $50,000, which was used up during his stay at Geisinger Medical Center in Danville, where Wright underwent four surgeries. Wright's health insurance coverage through the Veterans Administration does not cover this type of spinal injury, she said.

Wright founded the Grace Tabernacle Christian Center in Brooklyn's Crown Heights neighborhood. He has released more than a dozen gospel recordings and was nominated for a Grammy award in 1994.