Two surviving victims of Midlands DUI crashes thankful for life this holiday season

Updated: Nov. 28, 2019 at 6:19 PM EST
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - As family and friends gather for Thanksgiving this holiday season, two Midlands men are particularly thankful, after coming face-to-face with death in 2019.

On a cold January morning, Brandon Zinn, a Columbia firefighter recruit, was struck by an alleged impaired driver at Bluff Road and I-77. The impact, left Zinn lying in the road next to his motorcycle with his left leg severed above the knee.

“I should have died,” Zinn said. “I could have been the one where my wife and son had to go to my funeral.”

Zinn was two weeks away from finishing firefighter recruitment training when the crash happened. His left leg had to be amputated from above the knee and he suffered numerous other injuries to his right leg and the rest of his body. Somehow, he said, he was up and moving three months after the crash.

In the months that followed, Zinn was fitted for a prosthetic leg, which he said is military-grade and will allow him to continue to pursue his dream of becoming a firefighter.

“I’ve got to get the right parts to get back into gear quick enough to pass the two-minute test,” he said. “On top of that, I have to be in physical shape to run. It’s possible, it’s just going to take more time than I expected.”

2019 has been full of trials and tribulations according to Zinn, as he remembers wanting to give up on his new prosthetic not long after being fitted for it.

“The first time I put it on, I tried it for two days and, on the third day, I was about to give up and said I’ll just use crutches and a wheelchair,” said Zinn. “But I got fed up, I threw the crutches aside and said I was going to do it. I just started walking. I had to use my walls for support, but I did it.”

Several months later, Zinn is able to get around easily on his prosthetic leg and is in the process of learning how to run with it.

Zinn’s experience was hauntingly similar for Everette Scott, a 29-year-old Army veteran and former firefighter. Scott lost his left leg to a suspected drunk driver in September. According to the South Carolina Highway Patrol, the crash happened around 12:30 a.m. on Sept. 22 on Highway 378 outside of Eastover. Scott and some family members were returning to Columbia after a gathering.

Scott, along with two other men, were riding motorcycles in between two cars full of family members. Scott’s attorney said the men decided to ride between the cars for safety, given the lack of lighting and risk of hitting deer.

Highway Patrol said the suspect suddenly crossed over the median and began driving eastbound in the westbound lane, striking Scott and knocking him off of his motorcycle. The impact severed his left leg.

Scott hasn’t been fitted for a prosthetic yet but plans on doing so in the near future.

“I’m still getting used to a lot of things, still adjusting,” said Scott. “At the same time, I’m getting better at a lot of things.”

After serving combat tours overseas, Scott said he never pictured the turn his life has taken. Still, he’s thankful to be spending another holiday season with his family and friends.

“I never imagined walking around here on crutches with one leg,” he said. “Especially off of someone else’s bad decision. So just don’t do it. Don’t even take the chance because it’s not worth it.”

According to the South Carolina chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, the state saw 291 drunk driving deaths in 2018, making it the 10th highest in the nation despite being 23rd in population.

MADD also said 28 percent of traffic deaths in South Carolina in 2018 were caused by drunk driving and those fatalities cost taxpayers $1.75 billion each year.

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