Medical Center Health System officials Brad and Christin Timmons were just ahead of the buses carrying the Andrews High School Mustangs Band when they were almost hit by the pickup that smashed into the buses two miles east of Big Spring at 4:02 p.m. last Friday, killing two men, injuring 13 band members and killing the pickup driver.
On their way to a weekend out of town and just happening to be about 200 yards ahead of the buses, the couple saw the wreck and immediately went to Scenic Mountain Medical Center in Big Spring, where they worked for over two hours to help with the victims and their families.
“We were headed eastbound on I-20 and a semi truck right in front us swerved,” said Christin, MCH’s chief nursing officer. “My husband just got into the inside lane as the pickup went right past us. If he had been messing with his cell phone or looking over talking to me, we wouldn’t have gotten out of the way quickly enough.”
Christin looked back and saw Marc Boswell, driving the lead band bus, swerve to try to avoid the pickup as the pickup ran head-on into the lead bus and careened into the second. “I turned in my seat to look behind and said to Brad, ‘That truck just hit the bus!’” she said.
Timmons called Stacey Brown, president of SMMC and Odessa Regional Medical Center, to notify her and let her alert the Big Spring hospital staff that multiple victims were en route. “I told Stacey, ‘I’m not sure what you’re going to receive, but I want to give you a head’s up,’” she said.
“That gave her a chance to get her staff ready and tell the day shift to stay put.”
Brown drove to Big Spring to join the Timmonses, MCH President-CEO Russell Tippin and her doctors and nurses in the SMMC Emergency Room and treat 11 band members and 53-year-old Karen Johns, the wife of AHS Band Director Darin Johns, who was the third fatality. Two musicians were airlifted to University Medical Center in Lubbock.
Brad Timmons, chief of the MCH Police Department, worked outside the ER to counsel the terrified parents who began arriving.
With an air of tragedy pervading the hospital, Christin said, the injured musicians needed comforting as well as treatment for their injuries. “It’s hard for adults who never anticipate being in that environment, much less kids,” she said.
“They were not only misplaced but misplaced without their parents. Then those parents were coming in not knowing what they were walking into with their children. But Scenic Mountain was very organized and prepared.”
Tippin, on his way to the playoff game in Sweetwater because his son, Tucker, is on the Mustangs football team, drove up on the wreck. “This reiterates what we all know,” he said.
“Life is not guaranteed to the next breath and you had better take time to love all your family as much as you can because you never know when something like this will happen. You’d better be prepared.”
Tippin came to Andrews with his family as a sixth-grader in 1985 and he was president-CEO of Permian Regional Medical Center there till joining MCHS two years ago. “I knew every kid in the emergency room,” said Tippin, who played football for the Mustangs before graduating in 1992.
“Marc was my math teacher in high school and his wife Carol was president of my hospital board the whole 10 years I was there. Marc was one heck of a dude. He was the football team’s statistician and he loved driving that Mustang bus. He could tell you how many rushing yards the team had in 1995, for example. He knew all that. He was super nice. He always had a smile on his face and was somebody pleasant to visit with.”
Asked if he thought the driver of the big 2016 Ford F-350 pickup that rammed the buses, 59-year-old Nathan Paul Haile of Midland, intended to commit suicide, Tippin said, “I don’t know, but something is not right when a guy is traveling the wrong way on an interstate.”
Haile was reported by the Texas Department of Public Safety not to have been wearing a seatbelt.