‘I will not be silenced’: Saluda County crash victim’s family seeks justice

Published: Aug. 9, 2022 at 6:28 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - Memorial Day changed the lives of Kailey Blumel’s family forever.

Her family says the last time they spoke to her, she said she was going over to her ex-boyfriend’s house.

What they learned later is that Blumel died in a car accident on a rural Saluda County road. South Carolina Highway Patrol (SCHP) says her ex-boyfriend, John Bannister, was driving and left the scene where she died.

He’s facing charges in the crash but they’re upset about the charges he’s not facing.

Bannister was facing leaving the scene of an accident involving death, contributing to the delinquency of a minor, and felony DUI resulting in a death.

Bannister was given a blood and urine test at least 19 hours after the accident. An incident report from SCHP says his toxicology report came back clean.

That’s when the felony DUI charge was reduced to a reckless homicide charge.

Blumel’s family is sharing what they think needs to be done.

“It’s just so heartbreaking to lose a child,” said Larry Blumel, Kailey’s father.

For months, Larry and Sarah Blumel replay the last moments, the last words they heard from their daughter before going to her ex-boyfriend’s house on May 30.

“She walked down the hallway that led to our bedroom and said, ‘Mom, I’m going to John’s. I love you.’ Those were the last words out of her mouth, and I told her I loved her too, and she left and went to Saluda, South Carolina, and that’s the last time we spoke,” said Sarah.

It wasn’t until the next morning that her parents got a message.

“She said there’s been an accident. She said we have found out that John and Kailey have wrecked, and they’re flipped over in a field, and we don’t know if Kailey made it. I was outside, and I just fell to my knees and started crying, and I couldn’t handle it,” she said.

According to an incident report from SCHP, troopers found Bannister’s truck rolled over in a field on May 31. Blumel was still in the passenger seat.

The coroner says she died between 10:30 and 11 the night before.

“She laid dead in a field for 12 hours, and John fled the scene and went to his home and hid. He never called 911,” said Sarah.

The incident report says troopers found Bannister’s wallet in the truck along with several open containers. They went to his home, where he told them he did drink and drive.

“We should still have our daughter here. She should still be here,” she said.

The felony DUI with a death charge was immediately reduced to a reckless homicide charge.

Larry said: “I mean, who would be drunk after that time limit has gone by.”

Her parents say this is not enough for the loss of their child.

“I will not be silenced. I will speak up. I will cry, and I will do whatever I want to seek justice for my daughter. She deserves every bit of justice that she can get,” said Sarah.

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