Eric Spears lives today because of Blount County Sheriff’s Office (BCSO) Deputy Devan Teaster. Spears lost his right arm – but he’s alive. Teaster’s quick work with a tourniquet and the deputy being in the right place at the right time was a life-saving combo.
“God put our paths in the right place that night, him being so close” is how Spears, 48, describes what happened. “Otherwise I would be dead.”
Here’s what happened: Spears and two of his best friends – Ryan Breeden and his girlfriend Brittany Branch – were headed home on Helton Road after a July 4 party. It was approximately 3:30 a.m. on Sunday, July 5, when Breeden’s truck left the road and struck a tree. Spears was in the passenger seat, his right arm dangling outside the door. His arm was crushed at impact between the truck’s door and the tree.
What happened next brings to mind the concept of “there are no coincidences.” Consider these facts:
- Teaster was only 5 minutes from the accident scene in rural Blount County when he got the call: “MVA (motor vehicle accident) with injuries and one victim bleeding badly.”
- The deputy always carries two tourniquets on his person – one in a spare holster on his belt and another in an ankle case.
- Two weeks before this happened Teaster, a member of the BCSO SWAT Team, was in a training class by Smoky Mountain Emergency Solutions. The class dealt with the proper application of tourniquets. “Great class and it was fresh on my mind that night,” Teaster said.
Here is how Teaster describes the scene: “I got there and ran to him. He was screaming and yelling and blood was pouring out of his arm. His friends made a makeshift tourniquet out of a hoodie and what they did helped. I got my tourniquet as high under his right arm as I could and the bleeding stopped and I kept applying pressure.”
An ambulance arrived about 15 minutes later and took Spears to the University of Tennessee Medical Center. Later that morning doctors amputated most of his arm and said what Teaster did saved Spears’ life. “When I woke up and realized my arm was gone, it was like I lost a friend I’d had for 48 years,” Spears said. “But I then thanked God I was alive.”
Recently, the BCSO presented Teaster with a Life-Saving Commendation and Spears was invited to the presentation.
Teaster, 28, has been with BCSO for five years. He and wife Emily have a 1-year-old daughter, Gracelyn. During the school year Teaster is the School Resource Officer at Walland Elementary School and is the assistant wrestling coach at Heritage High School. His father, Jerry, is the head wrestling coach at Heritage and Teaster was on the Heritage team for four years and graduated in 2011. He joined BCSO in 2015.
Spears was hospitalized for five days and had several surgeries. He and his two friends work at Rockford Manufacturing Co. and he says the company told him that he will have a job when he’s ready to return. He’s worked there for 16 years.
After Spears was out of the hospital, he tried to contact Teaster and left him a message. Shortly after Teaster visited Spears at his home.
He went to their home to see him and his family and to let him know we’d been praying for him. We hugged and Eric didn’t want to let go. Pretty emotional,” the deputy says.
Spears was emotional about that meeting. “First, it was so special for him to come see me at my home. I can’t say enough great things about him for what he did that night. God was part of this,” he said. “Deputy Teaster knew what he was doing. I thank God that he was there for me and saved me.”
Tom King has served at newspapers in Georgia, Tennessee, Texas and California and has been the editor of two newspapers. He writes this Monday column – Our Town Heroes –for KnoxTNToday.com. Suggest future stories at firstname.lastname@example.org or 865-659-3562.