Officials: 7-year-old killed in Chester County crash; man charged with felony DUI

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A judge ruled Tuesday that a Charlotte man charged with felony DUI in a crash that left a 7-year-old dead in Chester County will remain in jail, according to authorities.

South Carolina Highway Patrol said that shortly before 5:30 p.m. Sunday, a 2017 Chevrolet Express van and a 2011 Ford sport utility vehicle were both heading north on Interstate 77 when they collided north of Highway 9.

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The SUV ran off the right side of the road and hit a tree. The van went off the left side of the road and hit a guardrail, according to troopers.

The Richburg fire chief said 7-year-old John Maxwell Shanks, who was in the back seat of the SUV, died in the crash. The driver and front passenger, including the child’s father, were taken to a hospital for their injuries, investigators said. The father is currently in critical condition and does not yet know that his son died, according to family members.

“My seven year old will never come home again and he was the love of our lives,” said the child’s grandmother Kelli Phillips in court Tuesday. “His parents will never be the same. His little brother is still asking for him.”

Troopers say Palmer has been charged with felony DUI involving death.
Troopers say Palmer has been charged with felony DUI involving death.

The van’s driver, later identified as 35-year-old Jason Palmer, was also taken to a local hospital. Troopers believe Palmer was speeding and under the influence when the crash happened.

Palmer was charged with felony DUI involving death, according to Highway Patrol. He is being held at the Chester County jail.

“He definitely was speeding. We know we have an unofficial speed of 98 miles per hour at 5:30 in the middle of the day. According to reports, he appeared to be impaired when he was at the hospital when he was taken in, so yes we are waiting for a toxicology screen,” said Candice Lively, chief solicitor.

Investigators also found marijuana and cocaine in Palmer’s van. In court, Palmer insisted he was not impaired during the crash.

“I wasn’t doing no drugs that day. I was helping somebody move. I am so sorry about that kid’s death. I am truly, truly sorry. I am not gonna lie. I was sleepy. I was tired. I was helping somebody move,” Palmer said in court.

The judge ruled against giving Palmer a bond, providing some solace for a family dealing with so much.

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One of the 7-year-old’s grandmothers who spoke in court said she had just spent the weekend with her grandson before the crash. Another grandparent described her grandson as good and kind.

“The defendant is selfish and careless. His actions took our precious grandson and forever changed our lives and our families,” said grandmother Stephanie Blackman.

The solicitor said the suspect was out of jail on bond associated with previous charges of failure to report a death in Mecklenburg County.

No other details have been released at this point.

(WATCH BELOW: ‘This is not OK’: 64-year-old Fort Mill man sentenced for DUI crash that killed Army vet)