(slideshow) – By Jon Tatting
North Branch junior and senior students observed what can happen when drinking is mixed with driving during a mock crash presentation at the high school.
“This morning (April 19), you will have an experience that I trust will be very impactful to you,” announced principal Coleman McDonough to the crowd of students in attendance.
And it was, just two days before the students’ high school prom.
The mock event began with the unveiling of the crash scene: two damaged cars, occupied by young people appearing either injured or dead. The silence was broken by the siren of a North Branch police squad, which arrived with the officer immediately checking out the “victims.”
Arriving next were Lakes Region EMS crews in vehicles including an ambulance, the North Branch Fire Department and even a LifeLink helicopter that landed nearby to transport a crash victim from the scene.
Students watched as law enforcement and emergency crews worked together on the victims.
They watched as firefighters used the jaws of life to rip off the roof of a car.
They watched as an officer administered a field sobriety test on a young woman who had been drinking and driving.
The students watched as another peer, lying motionless, was placed in a body bag and taken away by a white hearse driven by a local funeral home director.
Prom is a good time, continued McDonough before the event unfolded.
“However, some students choose to make bad decisions, and the results of those bad decisions change everybody’s life. If we were to lose one of us, that would impact all of us, no matter who it was.”
Following the mock crash, Tim Burton of the fire department shared a few startling statistics with the high schoolers:
• more than one-half of motorists killed are not buckled up.
• more than one-third of state traffic deaths are alcohol related.
• more than 500,000 Minnesotans have a DWI on their record; that translates to one out of seven drivers.
“I’ve never cut a dead person out of seatbelt from a crash. Wear your seatbelts,” added a dead serious John Fox of Lakes Region EMS. “You may end up being injured, but you’ll probably walk away and survive. And, the law is the law.”
Students applauded their peers who served as actors and crew members for the mock crash. For many, the message seemed to hit home.
James Strzelecki, a North Branch junior, said his father used to serve on the Florida State Police Patrol, so he’s heard about the horror stories that happen on the road. What was his take on the mock crash?
“I wasn’t surprised at the situation that happened, nor was I surprised by the fact that everything from the helicopter to the ambulance came as fast as they did. People just have to be smart when they drive,” said Strzelecki.
Fellow 11th grader Danielle Remmen also has a father in law enforcement. She, too, has heard the stories.
“Honestly, it is kind of shocking to know things can happen like this and people don’t take precaution even knowing this can happen to them,” Remmen explained. “Some people get cocky thinking it won’t happen at all. It’s kind of shocking people don’t get it through their heads that they could possibly die on the road. People don’t understand they need to stop and think before they do something dumb.”