Dumas forgives drunk driver who hit him; driver sentenced up to 5 years in prison.

September 23, 2014
Scott Dumas looks at Keith Blackburn while Scott's wife Kathy speaks to the court.

Scott Dumas looks at Brian Blackburn while Scott’s wife Kathy speaks to the court.

By Rob Alway. Editor-in-Chief.

LUDINGTON — Brian Keith Blackburn will spend the next 2.5 to 5 years in prison for driving drunk through a grocery store parking lot and striking a pedestrian, then driving away from the scene of the crime. His victim, Scott Dumas, has forgiven the 24-year-old Ludington resident but recognizes the need for justice and rehabilitation. (See statements from the victim and his family and defendant below). The sentence was given under the consultation of the victim, who requested Blackburn receive no more than 5 years in prison.

Scott Dumas comforts his wife, Kathy, with Blackburn in foreground.

Scott Dumas comforts his wife, Kathy, with Blackburn in foreground.

On August 12, Blackburn of 603 N. Delia St., pleaded no contest for his crime. At that time, Mason County Prosecutor Paul Spaniola and defense attorney David Glancy had agreed to a sentence of 2.5 to 5 years in prison. See related story and background information here.

Dumas, 50, is a teacher at Mason County Central Middle School and an Amber Township resident, businessman and farmer.

“By nothing short of a miracle Scott is back to teaching today,” Prosecutor Spaniola said.

Scott Dumas addressed Blackburn and the court:

“On April 16, 2014, at 4 in the afternoon, a number of people’s lives were negatively impacted by the irresponsible acts of Brian Blackburn.

“On that day, I was picking up a few groceries. Upon checking out, I walked out of the store. A minute later, I was hit by a speeding car driven by Mr. Blackburn in the parking lot. I flew onto the hood of the car and broke the windshield with my head and shoulders. I was then launched into the air 8 to 10 feet, flipping for a distance of about 30 feet where I landed on the pavement on my head. The driver of the car did not attempt to hit his brakes before he hit me nor did he stop afterwards. I personally do not recall the accident due to the major traumatic brain injury; however, there were many witnesses whose reports are identical.”

Dumas’ injuries included:

Back of the skull fracture. Major contusion on the back of the skull. Skull cracked from the back right through the ear to the right cheek and sinus area. Compound fracture of the right tibia and fibula. Maisonneuve fractures of the right and left fibulas. ‘Road rash’ of the forehead and limbs. Bleeding within the middle of the brain. Multiple abrasions and contusions.

“I was flown to Grand Rapids Spectrum Hospital and placed in the ICU where the room had to be kept cold, quiet and dark. This was to keep my body from overheating and to keep my brain from stimulation.

“Five months later, I am still under a doctor’s care. I am, in the doctor’s words, ‘profoundly deaf’ in my right ear with no hope of recovery.”

Dumas said he had anticipated having a surgery to place a permanent post in his skull to which a hearing aid would eventually be attached.

“At my recent appointment in Detroit, this type of hearing aid would not improve my hearing enough to warrant the surgical risk. The hearing loss has had a negative impact upon my life. I struggle hearing conversations. When riding in a car it is very difficult to converse with anyone. In large gatherings, it is extremely difficult to clearly hear people talking to me.

“My right leg, although healed, is not the same as it was. I have pain and swelling that, hopefully, will get better with time. I have a brain injury which still causes problems for me. The brain may take up to two years to completely heal.

“For my family, this accident was horribly difficult on them. They didn’t know if I was going to live and they suffered great distress. There were many times they wondered if I would come back as the same person or someone totally different.

“Many others were affected as well. A couple of witnesses stated that they were terribly upset and could not get past the image of me being hit. Many students in my school completely broke down and needed counseling.

“My hope for Brian Blackburn is that he will get the help he so desperately needs and that he could become a positive, contributing person in society. Because of our faith, we have forgiven him; but that does not relieve him of consequences or responsibilities of his actions on April 16, 2014.”

Dumas’ wife, Kathy also spoke:

“On April 16, 2014, my 22-year-old daughter, Melissa, and I were in the southern part of Michigan. around 4 I was dropping Melissa off at a restaurant in Ann Arbor where she was waiting for a friend to pick her up. When I received a call from the (Mason County) sheriff’s department regarding the accident at about 4:20, I was driving by myself and had just turned onto I-96. The detective said that my husband had been hit in a parking lot as he was walking back to his vehicle. He continued to tell me that Scott had broken bones and a very serious head injury. They were going to AeroMed him to Butterworth (hospital) in Grand Rapids. I couldn’t understand or comprehend what he was actually telling me.

Blackburn with his attorney, David Glancy.

Blackburn with his attorney, David Glancy.

“I had just spoken to Scott at 3:30 and he was fine. I feared that I would not see Scott alive again. My next thought was of our children. How do I tell them? I contacted my sister to have her call Melissa and go pick her up. I then called our 26-year-old son Joshua who lives in Nashville, Tennessee.

“Imagine how hard it was for me to tell our son that his dad had been hit and was being flown out. I then had to call numerous family members and friends — all while I was trying to safely drive myself to get to Scott. At times I was hysterical. At times I felt I couldn’t even breathe. I prayed and prayed for God to keep Scott alive and to heal him. It took me over two hours to get to the hospital. I sat in traffic jams trying so hard to get to the hospital. Can you even imagine the mental anguish I endured?

“I finally made it to the hospital. When I first saw Scott, he still had quite a bit of blood on him. He had tubes, wires and monitors hooked up to him. He did not move. His eyes were closed and there was no response.

“He was eventually moved to the ICU unit. Because of the brain injury, the room had to be kept extremely quiet, dark and very cold. We kept a constant eye on the monitors. He could not run a fever or it could cause brain damage. If his heart rate sped up too much, he would become extremely agitated and could possibly hurt himself. When he eventually started saying something, it was ‘help me, please help me, just help me.’ Can you imagine what it is like to hear someone you love beg you to help him and there’s nothing you can do?”
Scott and Kathy’s adult children arrived at the hospital at 2 a.m.

“It was a horrible shock for Josh to see his dad in a neck brace, blood all over the pillow, multiple contusions and abrasions and non-responsive.

Scott Dumas addresses the court.

Scott Dumas addresses the court.

“Over the next few days, the brain injury became more apparent. We had to have one person on each side of his bed at all times. He was a danger to himself and did not realize he could not or should not attempt to get up. We had to call emergency help often due to his not knowing what he was doing and we could not control him. The pain and suffering that we witnessed Scott go through was horrible. They could not control the headaches. Any sound or light would make everything worse for him.”
Kathy said she could see personality changes. “Scott had always been a very kind, gentle person. He would very rarely become angry. But because of the brain injury Scott started showing signs of aggression toward others and us. He actually struck Josh and Melissa — something he had never done in his life. One evening when I was alone with him he looked at me with such hatred and spoke with such meanness. I had never seen that before. We became fearful that the man we all knew and loved would not come back to us.”
Kathy said Scott continues to heal from his injuries however their life is different than it was before. Due to the injury of his leg, he has stiffness, pain and swelling from lymphoma.

“Scott was never one to sit much. Now he must sit and elevate his leg daily. We also must travel to a doctor in Jackson, Michigan to help alleviate the leg problems. Scott works very hard at healing his leg and does not show just how much he struggles with this situation.”
Kathy said the hearing loss has also had a major impact on their lives.

“Mr. Blackburn, your irresponsible actions on April 16, 2014 created many responsibilities for numerous other individuals. You elected to drink in excess. By your own admission, you do not even remember driving to Ludington from Pentwater after visiting a couple of bars. These irresponsible acts caused heartache for your immediate family; created anguish for the witnesses at Shop-n-Save; hindered the learning of the students at Mason County Central Middle School; and brought tremendous heartache to Scott’s friends and family members.

“Despite your irresponsibility and the damage you brought to many people, God is so much bigger. We place our trust and faith in God. Numerous people from around the world were brought to their knees upon hearing of the accident. God heard our prayers. We continue to pray for Scott’s recovery but also we pray for you. We pray that someday you will learn of God’s love and forgiveness. We pray that you will become someone who can how and teach others that through God’s mercy, your life upon this earth can be better and filled with grace.”

A victim’s impact statement from Scott’s son, Joshua, was also read in court by Andrew Thomas, neighbor of the Dumas’. Joshua also recalled the events of the day and talked about the difficulty and trauma he has endured throughout this ordeal. In additional to emotional stress, the incident has put tremendous financial burdens on Joshua and his wife because of the need to travel back and forth from Nashville.

Blackburn was charged with operating a vehicle while intoxicated causing serious injury, a 5-year-maximum felony; failure to stop at a scene of an accident resulting in serious impairment, a 5-year maximum felony; two counts of assault/resisting/obstructing a police officer (Mason County Sheriff Dep. Kyle Boyd and Ludington Police Officer Tony Kuster), 2-year maximum felonies; possession of marijuana, 1 year maximum misdemeanor; operating a vehicle while intoxicated, second offense, 1 year maximum misdemeanor.

During his hearing, Blackburn accepted a plea offer to drop one of the assault/resisting counts, the possession of marijuana count and the OWI count. The remaining counts would stand and he is likely to serve a maximum prison sentence of 5 years for his acts.

Blackburn also addressed the court:

“I most definitely like to apologize to Scott, my victim, Mr. Dumas and his family for the pain and suffering I caused him. I never intentionally set out to hit Mr. Dumas, despite what anyone thinks. Prior to that day I didn’t even know he existed. I have been seeking AA and have been in counseling twice a week. Basically I am truly sorry for my decision to get behind the wheel. It was an accident that shouldn’t have happened. I do accept full responsibility for my actions… I am an alcoholic.”

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