MOCK CRASH - students see it all
The gruesome scene was set.
Two vehicles driven by teenagers crashed Wednesday on Don Adamson Field at Brainerd High School (BHS) and a male student was ejected from the vehicle. He laid motionless on the ground in blood.
Students in the vehicles screamed for help — one of the students was unconscious and another injured. They were trapped.
It was a scenario all too common of a fatal crash involving alcohol. A scene no parent or anyone would want to encounter. However, on Wednesday it was only a mock crash, designed to show high school students the dangers of drinking and driving.
High school juniors and seniors sat in the bleachers, watching the mock crash play out. They watched as emergency personnel arrived on scene and responded to the victims, who were extricated from the vehicles. They watched an officer conduct the standardized field sobriety test of the drunk driver, as the Air Care helicopter flew over ready to land on the football field. They even saw the unconscious student wrapped up, put in a body bag and placed into the funeral hearse.
The mock crash was sponsored by the Crow Wing County Safety Passenger Coalition and several agencies took part of the mass production, including the Minnesota State Patrol, Brainerd and Baxter police departments, Brainerd Fire Department, North Memorial Air Care and Ambulance, Crow Wing County Attorney Don Ryan, Brenny Funeral Home and Peterson Towing.
Four BHS students played the role for the mock scenario: Caleb Christensen, a junior, played the student who died; Megan Franzen, a senior, played the drunk driver; Miriam Pritchett, a senior, played the seriously injured victim who was airlifted off the scene; and Serena Schreifels, a junior, played the injured student who was taken to a hospital by ambulance.
BHS Principal Andrea Rusk said this is the first time since 2002 that the high school has hosted a mock crash. Rusk said the mock crash had really hit home for some of the students and herself.
“I was overwhelmed,” Rusk told students after the mock crash in the school’s gymnasium, where students gathered to hear more about the message behind the mock crash. “Only seven people at the high school knew about this event. We wanted it to be a surprise because in real life, these calls are a surprise and are not known when they will happen.”
Rusk told students as much as she enjoys joking around with them, that there are no guarantees in life.
“You have a lot of life to live,” she said. “The best is yet to come.”
Baxter Police Chief Jim Exsted said the goal of the mock crash was to teach students about the long- and short-term effects of drunk driving. Exsted said the timing of the mock crash was perfect as prom is scheduled Saturday, a time when drinking and driving is a huge concern.
“We want to enforce in everyone’s mind, especially the young minds, that the decisions they make can be very impactful not just today but the future,” said Exsted.
Sgt. Curt S. Mowers, regional public information officer with the Minnesota State Patrol, hopes students got the full picture about what can happen in a serious crash and learned the roles of the emergency personnel who respond. He said organizers made sure to include many factors in a crash, such as drinking and driving, seat belt use and distracted driving.
“I hope the students realized that these are not simple crashes and that there are deadly consequences to their decisions,” said Mowers. “We want to make sure they are really focusing on the decisions they are making as young people and not just doing things without thinking and then realizing the consequences, as consequences can be life-long.”
Mark Stansberry, operations supervisor of North Memorial Ambulance, who coordinated the event, said he has witnessed numerous serious crashes involving drinking and driving, as well as other crashes where drivers are distracted because they are texting or doing other things.
“I hope all of this gets through to them,” Stansberry said of the serious nature of drinking and driving and distracted driving.
Paul Augustinack, a junior, said the mock crash, “hit close to home” for him. He said his cousin is Annie Bahr, who was convicted in a drinking and driving crash where her passenger, Jackie Saddler, was killed on June 13, 2005.
“She went to jail,” said Augustinack. “I was like 9 or 10 when it happened and it has affected me quite a bit. It has changed the way I act in high school.”
Junior Delaney Kennedy said it had a real impact on her.
“I don’t drink, but the way they showed how it can impact people’s lives and how fast your life can change ... I hope my peers take something from this.”
Christensen, who played the dead person, said, the experience was profound.
“I was groped for them to find my ID, I was in a body bag and they put me in the hearse. Drinking is a serious matter and I think the students got it.”
Christensen said he believes that underage drinking is a problem in Brainerd. He said students don’t take drinking seriously and think anything bad or serious, such as death “... will not happen to them.”
Schreifels said her experience as an injured party was surreal.
“You don’t think of your friends dying or seeing them on the ground dead,” she said. “Life is really short.”
Schreifels said the message she got out of the mock crash is that students need to make good life choices because it can effect yourself and others around you and bad choices can lead to something severe.