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Paynesville Press - May 4, 2005

Mock accident held at PAHS

By Michael Jacobson

A two-vehicle accident - with two fatalities, five critically injured, and two walking wounded - was staged in the high school parking lot on Friday. The mock car crash served as a training exercise for the Paynesville Area Ambulance, the Paynesville Fire Department, and the Paynesville Police Department.

Student actors played the crash victims But its real purpose was to serve as a warning to the students about the dangers of drinking and driving, the need to be safe when behind the wheel of a car, and the value of wearing seat belts.

"These people who are casualties will forever be 15," organizer Jamie Soine, who belongs to both the fire department and the ambulance corps, told the students after the training exercise. Anyone wishing to grow older, Soine continued, should remember to be safe in a car because "this can happen in a fraction of a moment."

Student actor John Hemingson checks on Becky Leyendecker after the crash.

The mock crash was sponsored by the school groups SADD (Students Against Destructive Decisions) and SAVE (Students Against Violence Everywhere).

It served as live training for the emergency responders and as a good reminder for students, said fire chief Jim Freilinger.

Accident occurring The main reason for the mock crash was for the students, added Soine, who organized the event with the help of firefighters Dave Lange and Jeff Ruprecht and SADD and SAVE advisor Diane Seegers-Kyle over the last month.

The plain and simple message, said police chief Kent Kortlever, is "Don't drink and drive." One car in the mock crash had beer cans ejected onto the pavement. The driver of this vehicle, in real life, would face criminal vehicular manslaughter charges, according to Kortlever.

Students watched the mock accident unfold in the PAHS parking lot.

High school kids, said ambulance director Steve Stang, generally have no experience with accidents, so they have nothing with which to compare it. The mock accident gives the teenagers something to think about.

If you drive drunk and are involved in an accident, you can face criminal vehicular injury charges if anyone in either car is injured or criminal vehicular manslaughter charges if anyone is killed, explained Kortlever.

A helicopter from Lifelink was supposed to take part in the drill, but it was called to a real accident while on its way to PAHS. The mock accident, though, did include both local funeral homes, providing hearses for the two fatalities.

The emergency responders praised the acting by the mock victims, who screamed and shouted and reacted in horror upon finding their friends. While it may have seemed overdone, said Stang, it wasn't: people really act that way after a traumatic accident.

Using Jaws of Life Student actors were: Dugan Flanders, Eric Hansen, John Hemingson, Kelly Herzberg, Melanie Koerner, Becky Leyen-decker, Michelle Magedanz, Alisha McCorquodale, and Kayla Nelson. Nelson is the president of SAVE, Herzberg the vice president of SADD, Leyendecker the vice president of SAVE, and McCorquodale and Magedanz members of both SADD and SAVE. The others were volunteers recruited by the student groups.

Firefighters used the Jaws of Life to open a car at the mock accident.

"It was so scary," said Nelson. "Hopefully, I'll never be in that situation."

"It felt like it was going on," added Herzberg.

"It felt so real," agreed Magedanz. "I was shaking."

Seegers-Kyle said the mock accident definitely made an impression on her. "For me, the hardest part was seeing a kid I know and wondering 'What if?' What if it really was her?" she said.

Hearse The SADD and SAVE chapters had heard about mock accidents at other schools and started talking about staging a car crash at PAHS last fall, said Seegers-Kyle. They hoped it would have a dramatic impact, she added, especially right before prom, which will be held at PAHS on Saturday night.

Following the mock accident, SADD and SAVE members along with EMTs and firefighters led student discussions in classrooms at PAHS. Students also took a survey, and Seegers-Kyle reported unofficial initial reaction from students that the demonstration would make a majority more likely to wear their seat belts, less likely to drive after drinking, and less likely to ride with someone who had been drinking.

Even the two local funeral homes were involved in the drill, using their hearses to remove the actors' bodies to impress on the students the seriousness of car crashes.

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