Crime & Courts

Firefighter recruit loses part of leg — and likely his life’s dream — in Columbia crash

Brandon Zinn, an aspiring firefighter, lost part of his leg in an alcohol-related crash on Bluff Road in Columbia. A GoFundMe campaign has raised nearly $10,000 for Zinn and his family.
Brandon Zinn, an aspiring firefighter, lost part of his leg in an alcohol-related crash on Bluff Road in Columbia. A GoFundMe campaign has raised nearly $10,000 for Zinn and his family. Screenshot from GoFundMe.com

A 25-year-old Columbia firefighter recruit who was just weeks from finishing training must now adjust to a new life that includes the loss of part of his leg and possibly his dream of becoming a firefighter, according to a fundraiser.

Brandon Zinn was identified in a GoFundMe page as the motorcyclist who suffered a traumatic leg injury in a multi-vehicle crash on Bluff Road at Interstate 77 early Saturday morning.

Zinn was sitting at a stop light on his motorcycle when a Chevrolet Impala hit him from behind, the Columbia Police Department said in a release. The crash sent Zinn sliding across the intersection. He was wearing a helmet, slide gear and a reflective vest.

Police said at the time that Zinn had “a serious leg injury,” but according to the GoFundMe page set up by family friend Cammie Arn, Zinn lost the lower part of his left leg in the collision and nearly bled out at the scene.

Columbia Police Chief Skip Holbrook confirmed the details, saying Zinn was “critically injured with one of his legs severed during the collision,” according to a news release.

Cpl. J. Poage was the first to arrive and immediately applied a tourniquet to Zinn’s injury until EMS arrived, according to the police department. Hospital staff later contacted the police department to let them know that Zinn would have bled out if it weren’t for Poage’s actions.

“Although the victim has a long recovery ahead due to his severe injuries, he is alive tonight with his wife and family by his side,” Holbrook said in a news release. “Please join me in commending Cpl. Poage for his heroic life-saving actions. Great job Justin!”

Zinn was attending the Columbia Fire Department’s training academy, and was nearing the end of the 18-week training, according to spokesman Mike DeSumma. He was on his way to training when he was hit.

“He was 3 weeks from graduating Firefighter school, to fulfill his lifelong dream of becoming a firefighter,” the GoFundMe page states. “He was heartbroken when he learned that he had been hit by a drunk driver and will likely never be able to live out that dream. It is all he has every wanted to do.”

Graduation for the firefighter recruits will be early next month.

“We are doing all we can as a department to support and show our support for his family, for Brandon himself and the other members of his recruit class who are going through this training process with him and find in the last days, he’s not there,” DeSumma said.

The driver, identified by police as 34-year-old Kenneth Smith, was taken to a hospital for facial fractures, police said. Charges against Smith are still pending, but police say the crash was alcohol-related.

Teddy Kulmala covers breaking news for The State and covered crime and courts for seven years in Columbia, Rock Hill, Aiken and Lumberton, N.C. He graduated from Clemson University and grew up in Barnwell County.


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