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Crime & Courts

Arrest Made In Fatal South Carolina Teen Police Chase Crash

But there are multiple layers yet to be revealed …

A seventeen-year-old has been charged in connection with a fatal July 14, 2023 crash that claimed the life of a Midlands, South Carolina teenager – and sparked a renewed debate over proper law enforcement protocol related to high-speed pursuits.

While we continue to dig into these components of the narrative, our sources say there are additional layers to this story which have yet to be revealed … information which lies at the heart of an ongoing investigation into the crash.

To recap: Shortly before midnight on July 14, 2023, a silver Jeep Cherokee carrying six teenagers (aged 14-18) was observed traveling without its headlights on near Piney Grove Road approximately eight miles northwest of Columbia, S.C.

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For yet-to-be-disclosed reasons, the South Carolina Highway Patrol (SCHP) initiated a pursuit of the vehicle – one which later involved assets of the Richland County sheriff’s department and the Lexington County sheriff’s department. Speeds in excess of a hundred miles per hour were attained during the chase – which traversed a stretch of road running through Harbison State Forest.

At approximately 12:05 a.m. EDT on Saturday, July 15, 2023, the Jeep struck a curb on Lost Creek Drive, and plowed through the intersection of the Chesnut Hill Plantation country club – taking out several street signs, a fire hydrant and several bushes. Flipping end over end, the vehicle crashed into a pond next to the clubhouse and was submerged.

Here is a look at the scene of the accident …

Pursuing law enforcement officers dove into the water and immediately initiated rescue efforts, pulling five teens from the pond. One teen – 16-year-old Brandon Nunez of Irmo, S.C. – was unable to be rescued, however. At approximately 10:00 a.m. EDT on the morning of July 15, his body was retrieved from the pond. Nunez was seated in the passenger seat of the Jeep when it struck the curb and went careening into the water.

Nunez’s girlfriend – 14-year-old Ava Giammona – was also in the car at the time of the crash.

According to her mother, Amy Giamonna, Ava “narrowly made it out of the sunk car to the surface.”

“Brandon saw her come up out (of) the water and came to try and help her, they were both struggling to stay above water and make it to safety,” Amy wrote on a GoFundMe page she established to support Nunez’s mother, Rosa Nunez Torres. “Ava turned to check on him and Brandon had went under and never resurfaced.”

(Click to view)

Brandon Nunez (GoFundMe)

“Brandon was a sweet, smart, kind and funny young man, he was my daughter’s best friend and her first love,” Amy Giammona continued. “He saved her life in that water and he will forever be a hero to me and my family.”

Nearly two years before the crash, in November 2021, Nunez – then 15 years old – was reported missing by his mother after he did not show up for two days of classes at Dutch Fork High School. He was found safe approximately forty-eight hours after the missing persons report was filed.

No further details regarding Nunez’s November 2021 disappearance were immediately available.

This week, Richland County deputies arrested the alleged driver of the Jeep – Trent Cobb, 17, of Irmo, S.C. – and charged him with reckless vehicular homicide, driving under the influence resulting in death, driving under the influence resulting in great bodily injury (two counts) and multiple counts of failure to stop for blue lights resulting in great bodily injury and death.

Cobb was under the influence of alcohol, marijuana and prescription drugs at the time of the crash, deputies alleged. He was booked at the juvenile wing of the Alvin S. Glenn detention center and subsequently released on bond, we are told.

(Click to view)

A koozie from the Hampton, S.C.-based Parker Law group was found floating in a pond in Irmo, S.C. where a silver Jeep Cherokee crashed on July 15, 2023 following a police pursuit, killing one of its passengers. (Dylan Nolan/ FITSNews)

In the aftermath of this incident, our news outlet submitted a deluge of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests to the various agencies involved in the pursuit and rescue. Stay tuned for an update on the responses to those requests.

In the meantime, our media outlet is investigating a host of tips related to this crash – including reports regarding the possible presence of a weapon inside the vehicle at the time the pursuit was initiated.

“As is the case with any story like this, there is a set of known facts – and a set of unknown facts,” I wrote at the time.

Regarding the controversial police pursuit? As I noted two months ago, “on some level, running from blue lights will always be a definitional ‘F.A.F.O.’ situation – not to mention a crime.” I also noted I was disinclined to endorse any policy “which would criminalize law enforcement officers for demonstrating poor judgment in initiating chases.”

Still, South Carolina has one of the nation’s highest death rates for vehicular pursuits, according to a 2020 analysis by reporter Daniel Gross, formerly of The (Greenville, S.C.) News.

And there needs to be

Stay tuned for much more on this story as we continue our investigation …

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR …

Will Folks (Brett Flashnick)

Will Folks is the founding editor of the news outlet you are currently reading. Prior to founding FITSNews, he served as press secretary to the governor of South Carolina. He lives in the Midlands region of the state with his wife and seven children.

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4 comments

davismcclam Top fan September 8, 2023 at 11:23 am

What’s next ? Don’t pursue shoplifters

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Reply
G Top fan September 8, 2023 at 2:54 pm

Driving around at midnight with headlights off will get you stopped. It was the drivers decision not to stop and to drive away at a high rate of speed. He made the conscious decision that resulted in his friends death. Yes, it’s sad but tragic things can happen when you make the decision to break the law.

Reply
stephen henry Top fan September 8, 2023 at 3:11 pm

It is always a journalistic shortcoming to publish a news story that mentions “addresses” and does not include an inset road map of the addresses mentioned in story. In this case, the description contained in the story about the location of the fatal crash is as follows:

“The Jeep struck a curb on Lost Creek Drive, and plowed through the intersection of the Chestnut Hill Plantation country club – taking out several street signs, a fire hydrant and several bushes. Flipping end over end, the vehicle crashed into a pond next to the clubhouse and was submerged.”

There is no such thing “the intersection of the Chestnut Hill Plantation County Club”. Just for starters. Maybe this meant “the intersection of Lost Creek Drive and the entrance driveway to the Chestnut Hill Plantation clubhouse.” Or perhaps “the intersection of Lost Creek Drive and the entrance road to the Chestnut Hill Plantation real estate development.” Further, from the aerial maps provided on Google Maps, I cannot find the “clubhouse” that is located “next to” the pond where accident happened.

This is not nit-picking. I am simply pointing out that unless a reader actually lived in the Chestnut Hill Plantation community, there would be no way to understand where or how the accident actually happened.

Reply
stephen henry Top fan September 8, 2023 at 3:53 pm

Okay. Okay. Maybe it is nit-picking. LOL. But an ACCURATE description of the site of the accident would have been as follows:

“The Jeep flipped end over end and crashed into a pond at the intersection of Lost Creek Drive and Boat Ramp Road, which is the entrance road to the clubhouse at Chestnut Hill Plantation clubhouse.” Further, the Jeep did NOT land in the pond “near the clubhouse”. It landed in a pond located “at the intersection of Lost Creek Drive and Boat Ramp Road.” End of picking. And grinning.

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