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Commission honors two individuals for quick action that saved life of 1-year-old boy

Erwin Record Photo by Ty Butler • Five-year-old Eli Howard accepts a heroism award from Unicoi County Commission chairman Loren Thomas as Eli’s family members watch during Monday’s commission meeting.

By Ty Butler

During a Unicoi County County Commission meeting Monday, Aug. 23, Commissioner Loren Thomas delivered a speech, highlighting a life-saving effort by Unicoi County Emergency Management Director Jimmy Erwin on behalf of a local boy.

“The Unicoi County Commission recognizes citizens who are brave,” Thomas said to the courtroom, before revealing more details about the dramatic life-or-death event.

Thomas explained that five-year-old Eli Howard was enjoying a typical day outside, until he found his one-year-old-brother Sammy Howard drowning in a family pool.

Thomas said that Eli quickly “went into action,” and dragged his younger brother out of the water, saving the younger sibling’s life.

Sammy’s mother, Megan Howard, immediately began giving her son CPR, while Sammy’s father, Adam Howard, called 911. The family eventually got inside their vehicle and drove for help.

Erwin, who was eating lunch, overheard Howard’s 911 call and sprung into action. Erwin eventually caught up with the Howard family in the middle of the road on Highway 107.

Thomas said that when Erwin reached Sammy, the child “was found to be blue, limp, not breathing and non-responsive.”

Erwin promptly began resuscitating Sammy, monitoring the child’s breathing and appearance along the way. Thomas noted that Erwin simultaneously offered words of comfort to the Howard family, “reassuring his parents that he was okay.”

“Sammy went from non-responsive, to alert but lethargic, to sleepy but smiley, to normal and just a little fussy,” Thomas told the audience at the commission meeting.

Erwin Record Photo by Ty Butler • Unicoi County Commission chairman Loren Thomas honors Unicoi County Emergency Management Director Jimmy Erwin for the quick actions he took to save the life of 1-year-old Sammy Howard. 

“Today, Sammy is 100%,” he then added.


Unicoi County Mayor Garland “Bubba” Evely and the commission ultimately served Eli Howard a recognition of his heroism, adding, “Unicoi County hereby honors Eli Howard for his quick action in saving the life of his brother, Sammy,” Thomas stated.

The commissioner then turned his attention to Erwin.

“Unicoi County hereby honors Jimmy Erwin as a local hero for saving the life of Sammy Howard, and witness thereof Unicoi County Mayor Bubba Evely, myself and this commission takes great pleasure in presenting this proclamation.” declared Thomas.

Erwin and the Howard family were each in attendance to accept the recognition.

According to Thomas, Erwin said that the life-saving effort was just a matter of luck.

“To the Howard family, Jimmy was a literal angel on this earth,” said Thomas.

For more information on dates and times for Unicoi County’s commission meetings, call (423) 743-3541. The meetings are open to the public.