“You’re going to witness what happens every 22 minutes,” Snoqualmie Fire Department Lieutenant Kelly Gall told Mount Si High School juniors and seniors just before a dramatic mock fatal drunk driving accident scene unfolded in the street behind the school on Thursday morning, May 15.
Tarps were pulled back to reveal a staged, bloody wreck involving six Mount Si students. Mom Carolyn Simpson pulled up to the site to realize that her daughter Kelcey’s prom date had made the deadly decision to drive drunk. The women cried, screamed and panicked as emergency units from Snoqualmie, Bellevue and Fall City rushed in to rescue survivors, lay a white blanket over the dead, and arrest Ben Joselyn, who played the drunk driver.
The emotional half-hour-long scene was hauntingly realistic to get students to think twice before drinking and driving, particularly the week before prom.
“I wanted to really touch the students,” said senior Kara Clearman, who organized the event as part of “Think and Drive” week at the school. “With my friends, there’s been a lot of pressure for drinking. This will hit home for students — a lot of bad things can happen when you drink.”
Student Katelyn Walker lay splayed across a truck’s hood, covered in sticky stage blood. She said she was willing to endure the physical discomforts of being part of the fake accident because she knew her participation would have an impact on her peers. It’s one thing to watch a crash on TV; it’s much more powerful to see it happen live to friends.
“People from our school know us really well, and if they actually see the crash and all this, it’s a little harder,” Walker said.
Firefighter Stephan Haistings joined a mix of volunteer and staff emergency responders in hopes of preventing the real tragedies with which he’s all too familiar.
“If we help one person’s choice not to drink and drive, it’s great. I’ve been to a number of these in real life, and it’s really sad,” he said after dousing the victims with fake blood.
Once the last victim was carried away on a stretcher and the drunk driver was led away in handcuffs, Gall summarized the scene, explaining how each accident participant and their families were affected by one student’s bad choice. The student audience left the crash scene and went inside for a mock memorial service and a speech from a parent whose daughter was killed in a drunk driving accident.
When all was quiet, junior Alex Bolves emerged from under the white blanket EMTs had laid over him, looking shaken. Pretending to die in the accident had clearly rattled him.
“I was shaking under the blanket. It was really, really wierd.
“It was very intense,” he said.
Gall said he helps the school with the mock crash every two years, so all students get to see it as either a junior or senior. It’s part of a national program to prevent drunk driving accidents.
After sharing sobering statistics about drunk driving fatalities with the upperclassmen, Gall listed “teen invincibility” and “I can handle it syndrome” as factors that lead youths to drink and drive.
Other “Think and Drive” week events included Wednesday’s “Day of the Dead,” in which volunteers were pulled out of class to symbolically die. Every 15 minutes, a student painted his face white, changed into black clothing, and held a sign indicating his time of death to represent the regularity of drunk driving fatalities.
Clearman also organized a “prom pals” program in which Valley fifth-graders wrote letters to seniors urging them to make good decisions.