A LifeGuard Alaska helicopter lifts off with mock crash victims as Central Emergency Services responders work to free other vicitims during a teen drunk driver training exercise Monday at Soldotna High School.
Photo by Phil Hermanek
The mood changed dramatically outside Soldotna High School on Monday afternoon when a woman came running hysterically toward a mock car crash, screaming that her daughter was one of the victims.
At once, the 120 students watching the Central Emergency Services responders attending to the dead and injured in a staged drunk driving accident stopped giggling and playfully jostling each other and focused their attention on the woman.
Misty McCown, mother of high school junior Marlana McCown in real life, was play acting as the mother of one of the six students involved in the crash.
"My God! No! No!" she screamed as she ran toward the two wrecked cars.
A CES rescue worker grabbed her and seated her on a curb as others responders worked frantically to extricate the victims from the crash.
Organized by CES volunteer Josh Thompson, the exercise was designed to send a graphic message to high school juniors and seniors less than a week before prom, when the propensity for teen drunk driving accidents increases.
Two cars were intentionally crashed into one another in the school parking lot and the six students, wearing prom-style formal wear and theatrical make up depicting cuts, burns and blood, were placed into the cars to add believability to the scene.
Student actors included Katie Pankowski, 18, Keegan Birchfield, 17, Sasha Porter, 16, Scott Forster, 18, and Lisa Orth, 17.
With sirens blaring, police cars, CES ambulances and a rescue truck sped onto the scene, as one student climbed out of one of the cars and staggered around in a supposed drunken daze.
Rescue workers quickly set up shop with portable generators, power tools for extricating victims pinned in the wreckage and medical gear to give first aid.
A LifeGuard Alaska helicopter landed nearby ready to airlift trauma victims to Central Peninsula General Hospital.
As rescuers worked at the cars, the drunk driver, portrayed by Jacob Shapley, 18, was handcuffed and placed into a Soldotna police car by officer Tony Garcia.
About 60 high school students, many from language arts instructor Alissa Mattson's class, and 60 fifth-graders from Redoubt Elementary School looked on.
The younger students are members of Garcia's DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) class.
Mattson said many of the high school students have been discussing drinking and driving during advisory period
A new program at SoHi this year, advisory period is a 15-minute break in the school day during which teachers have an opportunity to give individual attention to the students.
"We talk about school climate, being responsible citizens, encouraging volunteering," Mattson said. "Mainly it's about building relationships with the kids."
Mattson said SoHi will host an after-prom party at the school Saturday evening to help assure the safety of students.
Firefighter Thompson said he came up with the idea of the exercise because "drinking is a big problem on the Kenai Peninsula."
"As long as we have drinking, we're gonna have people drinking and driving," Thompson said.
He said he would like to conduct similar mock accident exercises at other schools in years to come and said he thought Monday's exercise "went very well."
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