It was early in the morning on Saturday, April 28. Randy Sparling, a student activities coordinator, was carting a bunch of schoolkids to Busch Gardens for a field trip.
One of the kids was feeling a bit sick, so Sparling had him sit up front. As they paused at a light, Sparling noticed a nice motorcycle across from them and pointed it out to the kid.
“I was sitting in the front seat with a young student who had motion sickness and we were talking and I saw the two motorcycles and said to the student, ‘Oh, look at that beautiful Harley,’” Sparling said. “Their light turned green and they started to come towards us, and all of the sudden a minivan came hauling through the light and hit them.”
Sparling remembers how loud the crash was, and how he watched, horrified, as the man and his wife were thrown from their bike and onto the pavement. Without hesitation, he was out of the bus and running toward the injured couple.
Joe and Stephanie Watts were the unfortunate duo involved in the accident. It was a weekend morning and they had been planning to spend it at a nice brunch.
Both of them were still alive after the collision, but in rough shape. Stephanie looked like she had broken bones, but Joe’s leg had been severed below the knee.
Despite the pain and distress he suffered, Joe remembered how nicely their ride had started out before things went south.
“It was a beautiful day. We were the first at a red light, and when it turned green, I went into first gear and started heading across the intersection,” Joe said.
“Suddenly, it was like a bolt of lightening — a minivan T-boned us from the right side,” he continued. “It was such a violent motion; it struck us and swung us forward. I went over the handlebars and out of my peripheral vision I saw my wife’s body fly over me.”
“My wife Stephanie is my world,” he added. “We were just trying to go have brunch and enjoy ourselves on a beautiful day, and seconds later, I’m thinking I’m leaving this world.”
Sparling, who had an extensive history participating in and leading Boy Scout activities, had a pretty good idea of what needed to happen next.
Joe’s leg was bleeding profusely, and without a tourniquet Sparling feared Joe would bleed out. Meanwhile, Joe was dazed and asking for his wife.
“I was directly on my back, looking up and my leg felt like jello,” Joe said. “I could hear my wife calling for me.”
Sparling shouted to the kids on the bus that he needed a belt, and a swarm of belts made its way from the bus. Sparling used one to cinch around Joe’s leg and stem the tide.
First responders soon arrived to care for Joe and Stephanie, and both were taken to the hospital where they underwent several operations — and have more to look forward to. Both of them are in wheelchairs and it will be a while before they can walk on their own again.
Stephanie suffered wrist and leg injuries. Joe now has a prosthetic pelvis and had his leg amputated above the knee. Meanwhile, the driver of the van that hit them is facing criminal charges.
Sparling was an excellent example to the kids on that bus and has continued to stay in contact with the couple.
He checks in on them regularly and even had the students he works with make a get-well-soon banner for the Watts. Joe and Randy hope to remain friends for years to come.
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