Bear River High School students gathered Thursday morning to watch a simulated car wreck — “injured” students splattered with fake blood and emergency vehicles that rushed to the scene during an Every 15 Minutes demonstration to remind students of the statistic that someone dies every 15 minutes from an alcohol-related collision.
Some students involved in the demonstration were pulled out of vehicles with emergency responders trying to resuscitate them. Some then were covered with tarps to appear dead; one was strapped to a backboard and taken in an ambulance, another was taken to a helicopter that rushed to the field, and one was “arrested” for driving under the influence.
“This is the most important assembly all year, and students take it quite seriously,” said event coordinator Patti Ehlers. “Students take a lot away from this.”
The event is also important because the youth are the future of the country, said Dina Hernandez, public information officer for CHP.
“In reality, we know students are going to parties and will drink, but we want them to make responsible decisions,” Hernandez said.
The demonstration involved local law enforcement agencies, including the California Highway Patrol, the Grass Valley and Nevada City police departments, Higgins Fire Department and, for a simulated funeral, Grass Valley Florist and Hooper and Weaver Mortuary, Ehlers said.
The demonstration alternates each year between Bear River and Nevada Union high schools and is paid for through the state Office of Traffic Safety and donations from State Farm, Riebes Auto Parts and the Law Enforcement Fire Protection Council, Hernandez said.
“It really takes the whole community to put this thing on,” she said. “We would not have been able to do it without them.”
The “dead” students were taken out of school for the day and show up dressed in white makeup and black attire to attend their own funeral, which family members attend, complete with bagpipes, flowers and caskets in a student-created graveyard on the school grounds, said Julia Kent, a Bear River alumna who volunteers at the school and is an educational counseling graduate student at National University in Sacramento.
A student dressed as the Grim Reaper enters classrooms every 15 minutes to reiterate the event’s message, she said.
“I know it impacts kids who are close to those who were involved (in the demonstration),” said Kent, adding that Ed Andersen, who killed Claus Sievert when he drove drunk on Highway 49 in 2010, will speak to students.
“I think it will be effective to have somebody close to here,” Kent said.
“I also think it might be interesting to help students deal with emotions and not just ignore them.”
Students said the demonstration was nerve-wracking and intense.
“Last year, there were a lot of kids crying,” said senior Alix Alfke.
“Especially for kids who think of drinking, it puts the image in the back of your mind that this could happen to you.”
To contact Staff Writer Jennifer Terman, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 530-477-4230.