BRIGHTON, Tenn. — It’s been almost three months since a charter school bus carrying a Memphis youth football team crashed in Arkansas, killing one player and injuring more.
Now one seventh grader who was on that bus is for the first time explaining how he had a very similar brush with tragedy earlier in life.
“It wasn’t football’s fault,” he said.
Austin Timbs loves to play football. In fact, the sport has become a part of his life story.
“One hundred fifty stitches on the left side of my face and I have that right there, and I have 32 stitches right here, spleen injury and multiple skull fractures,” he says, pointing out his injuries.
Austin was one of several children riding a football charter bus before it crashed, killing one of his teammates.
He says he was sitting a few seats behind the driver, and noticed the bus was losing control.
“Right when I felt the bus start tilting, I balled up in a little ball like that, and I remember about three flips. Blacked out.”
For his mother Amanda, these words are hard to hear.
“When he does talk about it, it’s, you know, it gets to me,” she said.
Going in and out of consciousness, Austin woke up surrounded by first responders. He suffered skull fractures that controlled his movement so he had to learn how to walk again.
He spent about two weeks in the hospital, returning home just one day before his teammate’s funeral.
Just days before the crash, Austin and his family celebrated his 10-year anniversary of recovery after another accident involving a vehicle.
When he was 2, Austin was hit by a drunk driver.
Ironically, Austin was playing football with his brother. The ball was thrown across the road and he followed to go get it.
“It brought back a lot of that,” he said. “It was like reliving a nightmare.”
Austin was in a body cast for two months, spent weeks at Le Bonheur and was in orthopedic care until he was 9 years old.
“When he was released from the orthopedic care, it was the first year he played football,” his mom said.
But football hasn’t stopped anything.
It’s the dream Austin says he wants to keep pursuing, and it’s Brighton Middle School that keeps him aiming for the stars.
Due to his injuries and quick exhaustion, the 13-year-old only spends about seven hours a week in school.
He’s also being taught at home and goes to physical therapy.
But this kid, having spent countless days in the hospital, is nowhere near discouraged.
“That’s why I’m always smiling every day, is because every morning I wake up and I always get to look at my mom. And the last thing I said before the bus, I said two things, and one of them was, ‘I love you mom.'”
Although she’ll never let him ride another charter bus, Amanda says she will keep encouraging Austin to do whatever he feels like God put him on this Earth to do.
“I’m very lucky. I’m very lucky,” she said. “He’s so strong. He’s stronger than anybody I know.”
And she wants this to show other parents, there’s always hope for better days.
Austin is still dealing with his injuries every day. His mother has had to quit her job to attend to him at home and school.
She’s created a Gofundme account for all expenses. Click here to contribute.