Family of Kelowna toddler killed by allegedly drunk driver pleads for justice

What was planned as a COVID-safe meet-and-greet for a newborn baby took a horrific turn in an instant for a Kelowna family.

Susan Peacock was breastfeeding her newborn baby in her backyard in April when she realized her 15-month-old son was missing.

“We’re talking milliseconds, not even seconds,” Peacock said. “I’m like, ‘Where’s Gaige’?”

Everybody immediately started looking around for the toddler, Peacock said.

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“I heard Jayden, my oldest, scream. Like a scream I’d never heard and I knew right away something was really wrong,” she said.

Peacock said she went running around to the front.

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“I have scars on my legs from diving into the dirt to try and save him and hold him together,” she said. “And I sat there and it seemed like a lifetime.”

Gaige appeared to have been run over in the driveway.

Mark Banman, Gaige’s father, had just left the house with a friend to run an errand.

The friend had offered to drive. Banman said the family didn’t know he was drunk.

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The friend had been adjusting his seat as they pulled out of the driveway, Banman said.

“So while he’s doing that, my son passed right in front of him, or right behind him, according to forensics,” Banman said. “And because he was drunk, he didn’t see that.”

The driveway was potholed, and Banman said the men didn’t realize what happened until they got a call.

“I got the phone call from my 11-year-old son screaming at me ‘Gaige is dead, Gaige is dead’,” Banman said.

The family later learned that their friend blew 1.4 BAC at the police station, nearly twice the legal limit.

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They said he had only been at their home for about 20 minutes, and they had no idea he had been drinking.

“My stomach turned. It made me sick,” Banman said.

“My son was killed by someone who made a really wrong choice to drink and drive,” Banman said.

Gaige’s parents remember him as the most amazing little boy.

“He was my little guy. Everything that daddy did, he wanted to be a part of. He followed me around everywhere,” Banman said.

“We don’t get those firsts anymore. We’re never going to see him go to school. Never going to see him drive a car, never going to see him get his first girlfriend, none of that stuff,” Banman said.

The family declined to name the driver.

However, Global News has confirmed that the suspect is John Pyziak, the owner of Kelowna’s Bulk Barn.

After the story made its rounds on social media Thursday evening, the words ‘Baby Killer’ were sprawled on the business in red letters Friday morning.

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Gaige’s family is speaking out because they’re still hoping for justice for the toddler.

Banman said he recently received a phone call from the local Crown prosecutor saying that there isn’t enough cause to proceed with charges of impaired driving causing death.

“We’re stuck here. We don’t have our son, he’s not with us anymore. We’re just looking for some justice here,” he said. “To me, to everybody around here, the case was cut and dry.”

“He made the choice to drive that day.”

It’s now been months since Gaige’s death, and the family believes their former friend is back driving.

“I don’t want him to go to jail,” he said. “But I do want to see some justice for our son.”

The parents believe the driver should have his licence taken away.

However, in an email, the Crown told Global News the file is still under assessment for potential charges.

“The BC Prosecution Service will not be releasing any information or commenting on the charges before the assessment process is concluded,” spokesperson Dan McLaughlin said in an email.

Pyziak could not be reached for comment.

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© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.


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