The Grim Reaper (played by Deputy Shrives) steps onto the scene as smoke emanates from the mock crash. The Grim Reaper is not only used for the mock car crash, but also to pull high school students from their classrooms every 15 minutes to symbolically show the fatality rate from drunk driving crashes. CHRISTOPHER PALANUK/THE CRESWELL CHRONICLE
Hosted by the Lane County Sheriff’s Office, Creswell High School put on a mock car crash and held an assembly as part of the Every 15 Minutes program on March 13 and 14. Coordinated by Sergeant Scott Denham and Retired Sergeant Kevin Woodworth, the two-day event focused on teaching students about the dangers of drunk driving with lively demonstrations and real testimonials.
To begin the day, Creswell High School students previously chosen for the program were pulled from their classrooms every 15 minutes by a Grim Reaper. This presentation shows students that, according to the press release, ”Every 15 Minutes someone in the United States is killed as the result of an alcohol- or distracted driving-related crash.” They are then taken to makeup artists and painted so that they look like they were in a car crash. Of those students, most are read their obituary by a chaplain and sent to plant their own gravestone. But a few, like Karis Dungan, Ali Galpin, Destin Halvorson, Dylan Miller, Shyanne Roberson and Alexia Vinje, went on to participate in a mock car crash.
In a stark presentation of what can happen, the teens each clambered into their smashed vehicles, received a bath in jugs of fake blood, and screamed for all they were worth as they kicked off the collision. CHS students rallied along the sidewalk to watch as sirens signaled the arrival of first responders. Consisting of four law enforcement officers, three South Lane County Fire & Rescue firefighters, a couple of mortuary staff and a Lifeflight crew, the team of civil servicemen made haste to rescue the hapless teens.
Using the Jaws of Life, the firefighters pried into the right quarter panel of the victim’s car as the police checked for survivors. After the status of each person was checked, the policemen began to question the ”drunk driver” (Miller) and record the event as the SLCF&R unit worked to pull teens out. Each teen was then sent to a predetermined location in connection with their injuries. Miller, after doing a series of sobriety tests, was ”arrested” for drunk driving and sent to ”jail.”
In total, three teens were sent to the hospital, one walked away, one went to jail and one went to the morgue.
But the students weren’t done. After each teen had visited the place they would have been sent had the crash been real, they all regrouped at Camp Harlow to tell others of their experience.
This sharing continued the following morning at a schoolwide assembly. Along with videos about the dangers of driving drunk, students also got to hear from not only their peers but also real-life victims of drunk driving.
”I needed to be at that hospital,” Chambers Construction worker Andy Rice stated as he recollected the death of Mohawk High School student Chase Herrington. ”(But) I didn’t get to say goodbye.”
Kelly Lovelace, a Pleasant Hill man, recounted the death of his 12-year-old girl, Katherine (”Katie”) on June 9, 2000 when she was hit by their nextdoor neighbor. ”You know, I’d rather die than soon do that,” he said about telling his wife that their daughter was dead. ”I only hope that by hearing this story that you will remember that your choices make a difference in the lives of everyone around you.”
Some students and parents left the room crying because the subject matter. But CHS Principal Adam Watkins wrapped up the event by taking that emotion and making it into a positive.
”Here at Creswell High School, we’re family,” he said. ”When you leave today, share what you felt – so that we can avoid these situations.”