Rodeo School Student Dies In Freak Bull Riding Accident
Tracy Sharp, Managing Editor
Tragedy struck this weekend in Martin as a commercial rodeo school student was trampled to death at the Ned McWherter Agriculture Pavilion located at the University of Tennessee at Martin.
Timothy A. Chambers of New Market, Tenn. was a student of Sankey Rodeo School. He was thrown from a bull during his classes and fatally injured when the bull trampled his head and chest.
According to reports, the 49-year-old man walked out of the arena complaining of chest pains and was treated at the scene by an athletic trainer. As he was being transported to Volunteer Community Hospital, he reportedly stopped breathing and was pronounced dead by emergency room personnel.
According to UTM Athletic Communications Director Joe Lofaro, the rodeo school was not part of this week’s 40th Anniversary Rodeo and Round Up Days event happening this week on campus.
“The university was not involved with the school other than renting the facility to the school,” Lofaro said. “Sankey rents out the facility every year the weekend before the official rodeo event.”
LoFaro added, “The university is saddened by this tragic event.”
Sankey Rodeo School, based in Branson, Mo., has taught rodeo classes for several years at the Ag Pavilion. The school has been in existence for 33 years and has been holding classes nationwide.
Owner Lyle Sankey said in an interview from his home in Branson that Chambers suffered an “uncommon” injury.
“Chambers rode the bull and was thrown. He then got up and ran to the fence,” Sankey said. Medical personnel immediately checked out the injured man before he was transported to the hospital. According to Sankey, this was the third ride that Chambers took over the weekend.
Sankey said that injuries do occur in the rodeo, citing it’s a “violent” sport. During the classes, he said they use bulls that aren’t “quality” bulls and not good enough for competitive sport however they are used to teach students. He also said that his students, who study bareback, saddle bronc riding and rodeo clown classes, are given protective vests and gear during the classes.
“These vests have prevented 80 percent of accidents,” Sankey added. “Even though many of these bulls are pets, they are sometimes eight times the size of a man. The vest didn’t work because of the blunt force of the hit he (Chambers) took.”
Sankey cited that sometimes the sheer size of the animals is dangerous.
Lyle Sankey has an illustrious background in the rodeo, qualifying for the National Finals Rodeo in bare back, saddle bronc, and bull riding. He is one of only four men to ever do so. He has also won the Bull Riding Average twice at the National Finals Rodeo riding nine bulls each of those times.
Sankey said that he had roughly 50 students in classes over the weekend.
Chambers, a U.S. Army veteran, leaves behind a wife and two children.