American Steven Blesi was killed in Seoul crowd crush on a dream trip


Since his freshman year of college, Stephen Blessy has dreamed of spending a semester abroad. The coronavirus epidemic postponed it for two years. But this fall, the Marietta, Ga., native and Kennesaw State University junior finally got his chance.

Her parents drove her to the Atlanta airport in August to leave for South Korea, the two of them teary-eyed, and Blessi cheered on her way. They took a photo together and made one of them go up the escalator, looking back with a smile.

Blessy was only halfway through the semester when, his family said, he became one of more than 150 people killed during a Halloween celebration in Seoul packed so tightly that many could not breathe. He was 20 years old.

“He was an extrovert, he was full of adventure,” his father, Steve Blessi, told The Washington Post. “And this was his first big adventure.”

At least two Americans died in Saturday’s deadly stampede, according to the US Embassy in Seoul. The State Department declined to name the two, but Blessi was the first to be publicly identified when his family shared news of his death on social media and with the media. Later Sunday, the University of Kentucky announced that Ann Gieske, a junior nursing student who was studying abroad, had died.

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The younger of two brothers who were also best friends, Blessy was remembered as big-hearted, happy-go-lucky, quick to protect others. His adventurous spirit was evident even as a child, his father said. “You know, you go into the store, you have to tie on him because he was just running.”

Here’s what causes a crowd crush like a deadly one in Seoul

He loved basketball and his pets, geckos, turtles and hermit crabs. He became an Eagle Scout, like his brother Joey, who is about a year older, and went to college with hopes of working in international business.

Stephen Blasey, a Marietta, Ga., native and Kennesaw State University junior, was among those killed in the Seoul Halloween crowd on Oct. 29. He was 20 years old. (Video by Steve Blessy).

While in South Korea, he kept in touch with his family via WhatsApp, sending photos and videos of his travels. One video, sent from Jeju Island, opened with “Hey mom, hey dad, hey Joey,” and Steven grinned and waved before showing how the waves spread. This weekend, she texted her dad saying she finished her midterms and was going to have fun with friends.

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“I just said. “Listen, be safe. I love you,” Steve Blessy said. “And that was the last text between us.”

He and his wife had just returned home from grocery shopping on Saturday when his brother reached out. Did they see what happened in Seoul? was steven ok

They tried to contact their son, Steve Blessi said, “and kept calling and calling and calling and calling with no answer.” It, he said, “scared the hell out of us.” A policeman eventually picked up, saying the cell phone had been found and recovered from the Itaewon area where the deadly mob surge took place.

Over the course of a few agonizing hours, Blessis called the U.S. Embassy and made contact with a study abroad program. They published a photo of their son on Twitter. They talked to his friends and found out that he was among those who decided to stay in the crowd when the others left.

They hoped he might be in the hospital. Instead they got a call confirming the worst.

“I just never thought something like this would happen,” Steve Blessy said. “I can’t understand how they didn’t control the crowd. I don’t even know how the hell that happened.”

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He spoke to The Post by phone Sunday while returning to his oldest son, who was attending college in Alabama. He said that when he got home, he and his wife would “hug him across the chest, hold him close, do everything we can to take care of him.”

They are making arrangements to have Blessy’s remains returned to the United States, where “he will be with us from here until we die.”

The father described his family as “broken”. Those close to her son have been reaching out to tell them what a great boy he is, she said, and “you love them for it, but it doesn’t take away the pain, and I just don’t know. I just don’t know.”

He continued. “This is going to be very difficult to live with for the rest of our lives.” His days would begin and end, he said with the same terrible thought. “One of our boys is no longer with us.”

She was second-guessing her son’s decision to study on the other side of the world, even as she tried to remind herself that accidents can happen anywhere. Even as he knew his son wanted to go so badly.

“I said. “I can’t protect you there,” Steve told Blessy. “And for those words to be true after all…”

Brian Pitch and Grace Moon contributed to this report.


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