Tuesday at around 6 p.m., Zoey Bynum, a freshman at Heritage High School, was playing football in Sandy Springs Park with her step-brother and friends.
An hour later, she was in the hospital.
After leaving the park, Bynum, her step-brother and a friend were traveling down Ferris Road when the 16-year-old driver swerved to miss a deer.
The wheels went off the paved road, the truck took down several trees and Bynum was flung from the bed of the truck.
Immediately after the accident, Bynum’s step-brother, 15, and friend called the police.
Maryville police arrived on the scene at 7:22 p.m.
Bynum was initially taken to Blount Memorial Hospital to stabilize her breathing before being transferred to University of Tennessee Medical Center.
Bynum’s step-brother also sustained injuries. He was taken to UT Medical Center by his parents for a concussion.
However, Bynum’s injuries outweighed her brothers. She sustained punctured lungs, several broken bones and severe brain trauma.
She is currently on life support in the Trauma Surgical Intensive Care Unit.
“Right now, it’s between her and God what happens,” said Susan Browning, Zoey’s soon-to-be step-mother.
Browning said when the teenagers left on Tuesday night, all three of them were in the cab of the Toyota Tacoma
The truck was a stick-shift and the gear shift was hitting the leg of whoever was riding in the middle seat. Because of this, the three decided Bynum’s brother would ride in the bed of the truck on the way to the park and Bynum on the way back.
Riding in the bed of a truck is legal in Tennessee for people above the age of 12. However, Bynum was not wearing a seat belt — a requirement when riding with drivers under 18.
The driver of the truck was 16-years-old and had his Intermediate Restricted Driver’s License. These licenses have certain restrictions and are reserved for people under 18 who have just received their licenses.
Browning was unaware of these restrictions and is adamant about making other parents aware of them.
“The rules are the rules,” she said.
Browning also has started questioning whether young drivers should drive pickup trucks when they’re first starting out.
She says she wants parents “make sure that the cars they’re letting their kids drive are adequate.”
She, Bynum’s parents, brothers and friends have spent hours in the hospital by her side.
“There’s nothing we can do except sit and hold her hand and talk to her and pray,” Browning said.