VIRGINIA BEACH - Not all heroes wear capes. Some of them ride the school bus.
That’s what Virginia Beach resident and 1980 Corning-Painted Post East High School graduate Randy Sparling was doing on the morning of April 28, when a man driving a Ford minivan ran a red light in an intersection in the City of Virginia Beach.
Sparling, a student activities coordinator with Virginia Beach City Public Schools, was chaperoning a group of eighth-grade students on a field trip to Busch Gardens that day. But at about 7:40 a.m., only mere yards away from them, the entire bus watched in horror as the driver of the Ford failed to stop or decelerate as his vehicle blew through the traffic signal.
“He was going about 50 miles an hour,” Sparling said.
The Ford smashed into a Harley-Davidson motorcycle piloted by 36-year-old Joe Watts. His wife, Stephanie, was seated behind him.
Watts’ right leg was severed below the knee. Stephanie, who was flung over her husband as she was ejected from the bike, suffered multiple broken bones.
“His leg was amputated immediately,” Sparling said. “Her femur was broken, her tibia and fibula were both crushed, her ankle was crushed, and her right wrist was crushed."
“It was a terrible accident.”
As an Eagle Scout and former member of Boy Scout Troop 78, Sparling is familiar with basic first aid.
He didn’t hesitate to help.
“I got off the bus immediately,” he said. “It happened like 20 feet in front of my bus. It was the right thing to do, and I was there at the right place at the right time.”
Sparling recalled immediately administering aid to Watts, who was severely injured and bleeding out on the pavement.
“I looked at his wife, and she didn’t have any bleeding, but he was bleeding profusely,” he said. “I hollered back to the bus and told them ‘I need a belt!’ I didn’t have a belt - I had shorts and a T-shirt on for the field trip - and belts came flowing to me.”
Sparling put a tourniquet on Watts’ leg and stopped the bleeding within two minutes, saving his life.
Sparling’s actions that day made him a local hero in Virginia Beach. So far, he has received several accolades and recognition throughout the community.
His story has been covered extensively by Virginia Beach local media, and he's received heaps of admiration and praise throughout his school district. He even conducted an interview with People Magazine recently.
Sparling also received the People Taking Action Award from WTKR News 3 in Norfolk, Va., and was awarded the Virginia Beach Life Saving Award from the Virginia Beach Safety Council.
“It’s pretty humbling,” he said. “I’m really thankful for being there and being able to help someone.”
Not only that, he also formed a new friendship.
“We’re getting to be real good friends now,” Sparling said of Watts. “I go three or four times a week to see him.”
Sparling said Watts is going to be in the hospital for another five or six months. Stephanie is also in the midst of her recovery.
A GoFundMe page has been set up to help the couple with their recovery and medical expenses.
The man who ran the red light is facing multiple charges following the crash. Charges range from reckless driving to driving without insurance, to driving with a suspended license, according to police records.
According to The Virginian-Pilot, the 26-year-old driver’s name is Yener Ezego Bartolon-Deleon.
Sparling said the accident closed the intersection for four-and-a-half hours that day. But even after the whole ordeal, the school bus was released by police at 8:15 a.m. and the field trip continued.
“We still made it to Busch Gardens,” he said.
To donate toward Joe and Stephanie Watts’ recovery, visit www.gofundme.com/help-joe-and-stephanie-watts.