Members of the fire brigade and police of Salina, the Diocese of Salina and AirCare1 were on site on Monday afternoon to take part in this year’s SAFE event with students of the Sacred Heart.
Nine students played characters in a two-car accident, each playing different roles.
The Seat Belts Are For Everyone program was developed by the Douglas County Citizens Committee on Alcoholism and jointly operated by the DCCCA and the Kansas Traffic Safety Resource Office of KDOT.
Teenage-run SAFE programs are held in high schools in Kansas, Oklahoma, and Missouri.
The mock accident
Club member Alyssa Mikkelson spoke about what her classmates could learn from the staging.
“It shows them this is happening,” she said. “People die, people are injured, and people are blamed … that shows that this is a real thing.”
The SAFE team worked together to organize, prepare and conclude the event.
Since Sacred Heart only stages an accident every four years, they occasionally promote student safety and awareness during the other years of school and engage in discussion when tragic current events arise.
“We are very fortunate to have highly qualified student leaders at Sacred Heart,” said Geoff Andrews, Headmaster of the Diocese of Salina. “It helps that our head football coach is a firefighter who deals with this stuff in real life and who volunteers much of his time here.”
Some students pretended to be dead in the production, while others screamed and cried for help to their friends. The Salina Fire Department used the jaws of life to pull a student out of the car and place him on a stretcher that was about to be carried away by a Med Evac helicopter.
After the staging ended, the students in attendance went to the gym to hear a few words from head football coach and firefighter Shane Richards, State Benal Ben Gardner, and Saline County attorney Jeff Ebel, and to ask questions they posed to the speakers or the SAFE club members.
Richards said he took the drunk driving issue and its consequences seriously because he lost a family member six months before his marriage. The incident happened over 20 years ago, but he mentioned that he could still remember all the intricate details of the moment he was told what happened.
He added that the reality of an accident is not limited to the people involved.
“It just doesn’t affect the people playing a game out here,” said Richards. “It affects the emergency room workers, it affects their families; The person who killed them affects them all their lives (and) their family, friends. Do you understand how deep that goes ”
Those ramifications are why a “silly text,” a “silly phone call,” or reaching for a dropped phone while driving isn’t worth the risk, he said.
One student asked if the actors felt adrenaline during the scene and if they would act the same if the situation were real.
One actor responded and said that she felt emotionally present and involved when she started imagining herself instead of a real car accident.
Mikkelson said the dramatic nature of the scene began when she called ambulance for a friend who appeared to be dead.
“When I picked up my phone to call 911, there was really nothing wrong with it, but I just shivered,” she said. “I had so many emotions like, ‘What if she’s dead? ‘It definitely felt real. ”
Superintendent Andrews disclosed that three students from his or her class below were killed in drunken traffic accidents near the same spot on the highway in their early years. He stressed that accidents could happen at any time, not just on nights like prom or other events.
“Every time I ride an Old 40 between Hays and Ellis, I almost never take an Old 40 to this day just because I hate riding in the same place,” said Andrews. When you are your friends, it’s real. ”
The emotional testimony of a state trooper
Soldier Ben Gardner also touched how he felt about the mock accident and that as he drove to the scene he brought back memories of incidents he’d been through.
He described that when he makes an emergency call on the radio, he imagines what the people who call 911 are doing on site or how they are feeling.
As Gardner approaches a scene, he ponders how the victims can likely hear his siren or see the flashing lights and what could be on their mind.
“To me, when I park and get out of my vehicle, I absolutely feel your eyes and I can feel your desires,” he said. “They are all eyes on me and all other first responders, like” Do something for us “,” Help us “,” Make a difference “.”
Gardner went on to speak of the process and the emotions of the countless times during his 22 years of service asking him to post an obituary notice to a loved one.
After arriving at the residence, he knocks on the door, steps back and waits for someone to see him. Often times, a person will recognize and signal to Gardner that they saw him and they will smile or give a nice greeting.
“When I see that, I always nod to them and stand and don’t smile back,” he said. “You can’t smile back.”
The person inside or at the door realizes that something is wrong and their smile fades before saying to them, “What’s wrong? What happened?”
As soon as he confirms that this is the person he wants to speak to, he does his job.
“Here’s what I say: it is my sad responsibility to tell you that your daughter (or son) was killed in a crash. And then I wait to see what happens next. ”
Gardner paused to calm down. His voice cracked when he spoke. He thought about how emotional he was getting while talking to the students and asked them to think about how a victim or a victim’s family might react if the situation becomes real.
He went on to describe the three typical reactions of the person (s) who learned the news, often falling to the ground and crying, or standing still with a confused look or reacting angrily because “they can’t control themselves at that moment. ”
Finally, Gardner urged students to be careful, to use seat belts properly, and to make other decisions that would not endanger them or others.
District Attorney Jeff Ebel dealt with the legal side of accidents in which a drunk driver can be charged not only with driving under the influence, but also with a range of involuntary manslaughter up to and including second degree murder.
Drivers who act recklessly are more likely to receive a more serious charge, and Ebel reminded students that drunk drivers can go to jail for many years and can negatively affect their lives in a number of ways.
“This whole thing has a ripple effect in the entire community and affects many people just because of one bad decision,” said Ebel.
After the presentation ended and all of the students were fired, Shane Richards spoke about how good the SAFE members were and that the students seemed to understand the gravity of Monday’s events.
“As soon as we start and they hear the sirens come on and we get started, they take it pretty seriously,” he said. “They had a lot of good questions and I felt that they had a lot of good ideas.”