RAYTOWN, Mo. — De’Mario Bland was getting ready to attend his 18-year-old daughter’s high school graduation next Wednesday. Instead, he’s planning her funeral as well as her mother’s.
High school student Zeraieh Bland, 18, was riding in the car with her mother, 35-year-old Krystle Brown on her way to Ewing Marion Kauffman School on May 11.
Around 8 a.m., Missouri State Highway Patrol said Brown crossed the center line near East 72nd Street and Blue Ridge Boulevard in Raytown. She collided head-on with another vehicle. That driver survived, but Brown and Zeraieh died at the scene.
“From my understanding she must have lost control of her car somehow. I mean, it was raining and slick,” De’Mario said.
Brown is De’Mario’s high school sweetheart with whom he shares two children. He described Brown as a “firecracker” who was “hilarious” and a cosmetologist who was “very good at what she did.”
As for his daughter, he described her as incredibly bright with a grade point average well over 4.0.
“I remember one time she was so upset that she got a B on her report card,” he said.
In fact, Zeraieh was so smart that she received a full-ride scholarship to Emory University in Atlanta thanks to the Questbridge Scholarship. The teen planned to major in psychology and later work for the FBI as a criminal profiler.
De’Mario said he encouraged his daughter to work hard and put her education first. “We did our best to raise her.”
Kauffman School, where Zeraieh attended, released the following statement to FOX 4:
“Zeraieh was an outstanding member of the 2023 senior class at the Ewing Marion Kauffman School: she served for four years on the Yearbook Staff and led the group this year as the co-Executive Editor, and she was also a member of the Senior Events Committee. She earned the prestigious Questbridge Scholarship and had matched with Emory University, to which she would have received free tuition. Our school community is deeply impacted by her loss and will forever remember her legacy as a scholar, a leader, and a friend.
“Zeraieh completed all requirements to earn her diploma prior to her passing and will be honored as a Kauffman School graduate in next Wednesday’s ceremony. We will invite a family member to accept her diploma on her behalf.”
De’Mario said he’s accepted what happened that day, but explained the hardest part is living with it every day and knowing it’s not a dream.
“I think the biggest thing that I struggle with is not understanding why,” he said. “I haven’t asked God why, but it would be nice to be able to understand.”
He said he and his son plan to start therapy to make sure they’re mentally healthy once the funerals are over.
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A GoFundMe page is up to help pay for Zeraieh and Krystle’s funerals, which will happen June 2 so family and friends who live out of town have enough time to make travel arrangements.