GREENVILLE, SC (FOX Carolina) - Robert "Robby" Bannister has been teaching for 21 years, 19 of those years teaching 4-year-old Kindergarten. He says he has a passion for kids, and fell in love with the idea of teaching young children while in college. He's taken the kids at League Academy under his wing, promptly showing up on time and following his own routine to get the day started.
But September 18, 2019 was not going to be a routine day for Bannister.
Bannister says he was five minutes late leaving from home that day, but not late to work by any means. But the delay proved to be a factor to helping him save a life.
He took the fastest route he could down Rutherford Road, and on his drive he saw a horrific scene: a teenager lying in the road, not moving.
"It was kind of hard," Bannister said. "I wanted to help somebody else, and when I turned the corner was when I noticed someone laying in the road."
That teenager was 13-year-old Welfred Hallens. Greenville police say Welfred was the victim of a road rage incident that sent him to the hospital with serious injuries. GPD says Welfred had walked his younger sister to the bus stop and waited with her there. However, Welfred was hit by a silver PT Cruiser, which police say was driven by Norman Earl Gardner Jr. On October 17, Gardner Jr. was sentenced to a 30-day stint in jail after pleading guilty to the incident, in which he was driving 75 mph in a 45 mph zone.
Bannister says as soon as he pulled over and stopped, his training kicked in. He says Greenville County Schools requires teachers to be trained in CPR, allowing him to help as quickly as possible.
"For a moment, you don't know what's going on. For a microsecond, it's like 'is this real'", he said. But after that brief moment, he started CPR and called 911 while still doing chest compressions. Another bystander took the phone while Bannister kept up CPR. Bannister kept praying through it all, and eventually Welfred began breathing again.
"The first thing I said was 'thank you Jesus'", Bannister said. "I knew it was bad, and in that moment you're praying for the child."
Bannister notes first responders got on scene quickly and praised them for their response. All of this, he says, was part of a greater plan to help make sure Wellfred would survive.
"I believe God put me there on purpose. He had a plan for me to be there, five minutes late."
Bannister says even though he never thought he'd ever have to perform CPR, he's glad he was trained, and encourages others to thank first responders who he notes responds to scenes like his often.
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