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By Laurie Pearson, Staff writer
While many people have reasons to be thankful this time of year, Tyler Campbell, who lived to tell about his recent accident and the life-threatening ordeal that followed, is filled with gratitude to God for his family and for life.
An exhaustive search began for Tyler when he didn’t arrive home after a church-sponsored bon fire in Ardmore on Saturday, Nov. 3. He had left early and stopped by a friend’s house for a while, then headed home about 11 p.m.
As he merged with traffic on Interstate 65, he fell asleep at the wheel of his truck. He said the last thing he remembered was hitting a merge sign. The truck had gone over a 30-foot embankment and flipped, landing as a twisted pile of metal and glass.
Sometime later, Tyler woke up in the cold, dark of night about five feet from his totaled truck. He knew immediately that he had been hurt. He had sustained severe breaks in his right leg, and his right shoulder was broken, as well.
About the accident, Tyler said with a smile, his first thought was, “Uh oh.” His next reaction was panic. He couldn’t get to his phone.
When Tyler didn’t arrive home before his curfew, which he customarily did, his mom, Liz, began to worry. At 11:30 p.m., about the time of the accident, she felt that something was wrong. About 1 a.m., Tyler’s father, Lee, went out looking for him along the route he believed his son would be traveling, but found no sign of him or the truck he was driving.
Later, a massive search was undertaken by neighbors, local law enforcement, EMA, Lincoln County Fire Rescue and other volunteers. Liz’s uncle, Brian Scott, a former Tennessee state trooper, was one of the first on the scene. Tyler’s uncle, Doug Campbell, assistant chief of Dellrose Fire/Rescue, headed up the search in western Lincoln County.
“A big thank you to the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Department, EMA, the volunteer fire departments and everyone who helped,” Liz said, gratefully.
Days went by without any sign of Tyler.
“I was a basket case, in shock – I was at my lowest,” said Liz, describing how she felt at that time. Not knowing what happened to her son was terrifying.
“I didn’t doubt where Tyler would spend eternity,” said Lee, “but I didn’t know if I would ever see him alive again.”
Family, friends, neighbors and members of Union Grove Baptist Church, where the Campbells have been members for 13 years, began comforting the family and praying for Tyler.
In the meantime, Tyler was surviving the elements as best he could. He couldn’t get back inside the mangled truck to get his jacket. Those nights temperatures dipped down to freezing and then the rain came. He was thirsty, hungry and cold.
The former Boy Scout drank the water that pooled in a broken headlight in an attempt to keep hydrated. But, the rain also made the slopes slippery, so when he struggled to push himself up the embankment on his back, using his good arm and leg, he kept sliding back down.
“I asked God to help me, and He helped me get out of the ditch on the third day,” said Tyler, with a quick smile, explaining that on Tuesday, he tried a different route up the hill and finally made it to the top.
“It was all God though,” Tyler explained, not taking any credit himself.
A truck driver spotted Tyler pushing his way up the embankment and contacted the authorities at the next exit. In the meantime, a lady from Hamilton, Ala., stopped when she saw him at the top of the ravine and let Tyler use her cell phone to call home.
“I heard his voice and just about passed out,” said Liz.
Another truck driver then stopped, and the two of them tended to the young man as State Trooper Will Spivey called paramedics to the scene.
When Tyler arrived at Huntsville Hospital “the ER doctor was stunned that there were no internal injuries and no head injuries,” said Liz. In addition to his major injuries, Tyler had some minor cuts and a bruise.
“He did have frost bite and was treated for hypothermia,” Liz said.
In surgery, a metal rod was inserted into Tyler’s right shin and pinned with titanium screws. Fortunately, he didn’t have to have surgery on his shoulder.
He has several more weeks of recovery at his rural Lincoln County home and then plans to go back to work. He loads dynamite and primes it for a company in LaVergne.
“This has just been impacting so many lives,” said Liz, adding that the family has gotten loads of cards and letters in the mail. “I’m getting calls and emails, too, from all over the country.”
Tyler’s friends are glad to see him now that he’s at home recovering.
“They tell him he’s tough,” Liz said, “but he tells them, ‘It was God’.”