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Infant dies in blazing car despite rescue attempts

At first, neighbors thought the flaming car was empty. After all, two children had run out already.

Then they saw two men race to the car with fire extinguishers. Some offered their garden hoses. Firefighters soon arrived. But it was too late.

Anthony Duffy, who was trapped inside, died in the blaze. Today would have been his first birthday.

Firefighters still are investigating the cause of the fire, said Steve McCarthy, deputy chief of the Pinellas Park Fire Department. An autopsy will be performed today.

His mother, Brandy, is recovering from burns to her hands and arms that she received trying to rescue her only son.

The fire began about 10 a.m. in the 1983 Pontiac 6000 that was parked in the driveway of the house at 4332 71st Ave. N. Brandy Duffy had driven there to visit her friend Michelle Cross.

When the fire broke out, Michelle Cross called 911 and her husband, Tommy, who works at an auto-detailing business less than a minute from the house, Tommy Cross said.

Cross said he grabbed two fire extinguishers from work and went to the house with co-worker Rick Staton. "The neighbors just stood around. They didn't do nothing," Cross said. "I guess no one realized there was a baby in the car."

Cross and Staton ran next door, and neighbor Christine Parker handed them another fire extinguisher. Parker's father, Ivan Godin, squirted water from a garden hose on the car, which was engulfed in flames.

"We tried to put the fire out, but it was too late. Too late," Staton said. "The car was too hot."

Neighbor Shirley Hough said she opened her front door to check the weather and she saw the car burning. People were yelling.

"I heard her shout that the baby was in the car. A man was hollering for a hose," Hough said. Hough called 911 and would have loaned a hose, but it was tangled.

Firefighters, police and other rescue workers arrived minutes after the 911 call. The baby's father, James Duffy, arrived shortly after that, called by Michelle Cross. Police had to hold him back from rushing up and trying to save his son, McCarthy said.

Later in the day, police and firefighters were urged to go to stress counseling, which is provided in such cases, McCarthy said.

"It eliminates a lot of stress down the road," he said.

Cross said the Duffy family includes four girls, the oldest of whom is 6. Mrs. Cross and Mrs. Duffy socialized often, Cross said.

McCarthy said the couple didn't have a permanent address. James Terry, a former neighbor, said the Duffys spent a lot of time with the children.

"She was good with the baby," Terry said. "She had a handful running around. He was out there playing with them all the time."

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