‘He was my unicorn’: Family & friends honor man’s memory after crash


PIATT COUNTY, Ill. (WCIA) — A community is in mourning after 23-year-old Tristan Brannin was killed in a crash last week.

“He was almost home,” said Tristan’s mother, Shannon Brannin. It happened on Illinois Route 10 at 2150 North Road in Piatt County while Brannin was on his way home from work. He was killed after a drunk driver hit his car head-on.

Brannin said she knew something was wrong when she checked her Find Your Friends app to see Tristan was on his way home. She said she went to bed and then checked it again later and saw his location hadn’t changed. That is when she knew he had not made it home and that something had happened.

Brannin said she is angry this happened. “It hurts so much,” she stated. “Don’t get into the car when you’ve been drinking,” she warned when she talked about the crash.

“He was going to be someone,” Brannin said as she conveyed the feeling of losing her son. “I was so proud of who he was going to be.”

Now, the community is sharing their memories and love with the Brannin family as they mourn Tristan’s loss.

“He was my unicorn,” expressed Shannon as she remembered Tristan’s unique and unforgettable personality. “Mythical…magical…and a little bit ridiculous.” Those magical qualities were evident in his love of making people laugh and cared for.

“He had a way of seeing people who are not always seen,” said Brannin. She was recently contacted by a friend of Tristan’s who told her about a time when she was new to school and was scared to ride the bus. “He took her over to sit with him until she was brave enough to sit by herself,” said Brannin.

Tristan’s caring personality could be felt by many people in the community. The Brannins’ neighbor, Lisa Tabor, said he was “so loving.” She said when they moved into their home, they became fast friends with his family. “Our daughter was in kindergarten, I think, so Tristan would come over and help her onto the bus and made sure she got home safe after school.” She continued to say her and Tristan’s mother even joked that one day they would buy the house between the two families for them to get married. However, they grew up and always remained friends.

To go along with his caring nature, friends was another thing Brannin said Tristan had in abundance. He had friends to share his love of Dungeons & Dragons and video games with. Brannin said there were many times she would wake up during the night to hear “his soft, grumbling voice” talking with his buddies while gaming. And sometimes she would come in to talk to Tristan and his friends would call out, “Hi, Tristan’s mom!” There would then be an exchange of jokes between all and sometimes she would crack one that would gain her major points with them, including her son.

That same greeting followed Brannin when Tristan went off to Eastern Illinois University. He still had the same ability to make friends wherever he went. “I don’t think he knew a stranger,” said Brannin. She then joked that sometimes it was hard to tell when he had been long-time friends with someone or had just met them that day. “He was a people person, even if he denied it,” said Brannin.

The closeness between Brannin and her son was evident. She said she knows parents and children are not usually friends, but as her son became an adult he became her best friend. She felt like she had a ticket into a great club that included inside jokes with Tristan.

Brannin said the community has been amazing to her family. A GoFundMe was set up by one of Tristan’s friends to help with funeral expenses and a meal train was created by a local church. Additionally, Brannin said there have been other things that have happened since Tristan passed away such as her waking up to having her driveway cleared of snow.

The Brannin family has appreciated the help from the community as the navigate this tragic time in their lives. Shannon said she hopes people will continue to share their memories of Tristan, his jokes and their last conversations with him. She said she loves to hear about how he made them laugh and their love for him.

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