God, sand and deputy/medic save Gabe Manning’s life

Tom KingOur Town Heroes

Maybe the stars were aligned. Fate? Lady Luck or Dame Fortune? A miracle? God’s will? A truckload of sand? A medically trained Knox County Sheriff’s Office (KCSO) deputy? Pick one or pick ’em all and let’s just be very thankful that Gabe Manning lives today.

At 10:03 a.m. on Thursday, July 6, 2023, Manning was driving his brown UPS truck west on Ball Camp Pike just west of its intersection with Lobetti Road. Heading east on Ball Camp Pike was a Butler Brothers Trucking dump truck hauling around 74,000 pounds of sand. Sand and truck together weighed approximately 20 tons.

UPS driver Gabe Manning, wife Lisa and their three children

The rural road is narrow, like many others in Knox County. According to the KCSO accident report, the driver of the truck, Rebecca Toney, told deputies that “her wheel got off the road when she was trying to move over to give both vehicles room to pass, then as she got back on the road it caused her to go across the road and collide with the other vehicle.”

It was a head-on collision. To date, no charges have been filed, but Kimberly Glenn, KCSO’s communications director, said, “The accident remains under investigation by the Knox County Sheriff’s Office Crash Reconstruction Unit.”

Toney suffered only minor injuries.

Manning, a Lenoir City resident, sustained life-threatening injuries to both legs. He was taken to the University of Tennessee Medical Center and has undergone surgeries on both legs and is now in a rehabilitation center and facing additional surgeries. The family is asking for privacy, declining an interview request and providing no further details about his condition. He and wife Lisa are the parents two daughters and a son.

KCSO Deputy Nate Barin

Let’s bring into this story KCSO Deputy Nate Barin, 32, who was three minutes away when he received the call about the accident. He was stopped at the intersection of Oak Ridge Highway and Harrell Road at Grace Baptist Church.

At the scene, a Karns Fire Department engine had arrived just seconds before Barin. “We were quickly sorting things out. The dump truck was turned over on the driver’s side and I immediately knew that the UPS driver was badly hurt,” he said.

Enter those choices listed in the first paragraph.

Barin is a certified emergency medical technician (EMT) and a certified combat medic in the U.S. Army Reserves 278th C Troop Charlie MED based in Mt. Carmel, Tennessee. He is trained for these emergency situations and perhaps fate played a role in him being the one responding.

“The UPS driver was pinned in by the dashboard and the steering wheel was in his chest. The cab was filled with sand that came in through the front broken windows and it encased the driver up to his waist and was packed in over and around his legs,” Barin said. “He was slumped over the steering wheel with his arms over the steering wheel. He talked but not much. I needed him to talk so I could make sure his airway was clear and it was. But we did give him some oxygen to help him breath. When I pulled the steering wheel off his chest he passed out.”

Barin said Manning was very pale. “I knew he was bleeding badly from his leg injuries. His legs were crushed, and God was at work here. The weight of that sand covering both legs maybe saved his life. I truly believe that without the sand coming in on him and putting pressure on his legs that he would have bled out before we got there and not survived.”

Barin applied tourniquets on both legs in the groin area to slow down and stop the bleeding once the sand was shoveled off of him. A pair of Karns firefighters used shovels to dig away the sand while Barin supported Manning’s neck and back, holding him in place.

A deputy since 2016, Barin added: “The is easily the worst nonfatality accident I’ve ever worked, seeing the UPS driver’s injuries and the force and impact of the collision between the two trucks.”

Barin is a native of Asheville, North Carolina, but grew up in Kingsport and graduated in 2009 from Dobyns-Bennett High School. He immediately joined the U.S. Army. Before joining KCSO he was a volunteer firefighter at Warrior Path State Park, worked as a security guard for Brinks and then came to Knoxville. Prior to patrol he spent two years working in the Knox County Detention Center and in forensics for a year.

Two weeks ago, he was reassigned from patrol to the position of the School Resource Officer at Powell High School. “I’m really enjoying it too, getting to know the staff and the students. It’s fun being around high school students, but in today’s world my job is to protect the school and everyone there, inside and outside of the school.”

Others are helping the Manning family. A neighbor and friend, Kelly Cusick, started a GoFundMe page to help with their expenses as the family navigates future surgeries. The initial goal, Cusick says, was $10,000. It took just a few days to reach that. Two goals later she has increased the goal to $75,000. As of this writing, 583 people have contributed $64,160. A new goal may not be far away.

“I’m just thankful for my training and that I was able to help him survive,” Barin says. “It was a terrible scene, a really sad accident and I hope it all works out for him.”

Tom King has been the editor of newspapers in Texas and California and also worked in Tennessee and Georgia. If you have someone you think we should consider featuring, please email him at the link with his name or text him at 865-659-3562.


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