Driving Home a Powerful Message

Nearly 10 years ago, the lives of two Gulfport students were lost in a car accident on Highway 49. Their father has been turning the devastating loss of his only two children into a powerful message to help others. He spoke with News 25’s Kristen Durand today.
Nearly 10 years ago, a stretch of road on Highway 49 was the scene of a tragic accident, claiming the lives of 17-year-old Kiara Pearse and her 15-year-old brother Brian Jameel Pearse, both students at Harrison Center High School and neither was wearing a seat belt. “The fact that we lost both on the same day, I mean, they died seven hours apart, I was able to hold my son’s hand while he took his last breath but it’s just tragic,” said their father, Brian Pearse.
Brian Pearse has made it his mission to drive home a powerful message to anyone who gets behind a wheel in Mississippi, especially teenagers. “It’s not that they’re bad drivers, it’s just that they’re inexperienced drivers and they just need a little more practice,” said Pearse.
And to state lawmakers, “Our seat belt use rate is going down, not up. It’s sad. Our seat belt fine is only $25. To me that’s not a deterrent. If you really want to have a deterrent make it stronger and more education is probably needed on the fact of putting on a seat belt.”
A sign stands just outside of Harrison Central High School that Pearse and the school hopes serves as a reminder to students leaving campus to buckle up. “Unfortunately tragic circumstances occur much too often and hopefully seeing that again is a visual reminder that they need to be safe because it’s very serious,” said Harrison Central High School Principal Averie Bush.
Pearse says he won’t stop until he sees clear signs of improvement. “This is not something I envisioned I would ever do in my life, but now I’ll do it until the bills and laws are passed, until our seat belt usage rate goes up in the state of Mississippi.”
In memory of their children, Pearse and his wife created the K and J Foundation. They provide four scholarships each year to children in Harrison County.

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