By Selwyn Harris
The scene Thursday near Pahrump Valley High School took on an intensity that was almost too real.
Four people were trapped in a mangled car. At least one person looked close to death.
The “accident” happened just after 9 a.m. at Mt. Charleston Drive near Calvada Boulevard.
Cops and fire trucks, ambulances and a helicopter screamed to the location. Fire Chief Scott Lewis was heard informing dispatchers of a possible 418 — code for a fatality.
A mortuary vehicle carried the dead away.
The high-energy scene unfolded before the bewildered eyes of high school juniors and seniors.
Fortunately, for all involved, the accident was staged — a message to students before the upcoming prom night about the dangers of drinking and driving.
Receiving a knock on the front door from a sheriff’s deputy with news that their teenage son or daughter is involved in a fatal car accident is a parent’s worst nightmare.
With that special night on the horizon, officials with the Nye County School District said they don’t want any parent to go through that kind of an ordeal.
As such, four students volunteered to be “victims” and gave their classmates food for thought by participating in a program known as “Every 15 Minutes.”
The program involves a simulated car accident where the teens are placed in previously wrecked vehicles for a mock collision.
To add a touch of reality, the teens are made up to look like they sustained very serious injuries complete with fake blood along with facial and body trauma.
Rachel Maughn worked to organize this year’s program.
She said it’s based on the statistic that someone dies in an alcohol related car accident every 15 minutes in the United States.
“It’s designed to help teens be aware of the statistic and to try and scare them into not drinking and driving,” she said.
The program involves local law enforcement and fire services.
Lewis said the program provides a stark reality to teens who have never experienced what it’s like to be involved in an serious alcohol related car accident.
“We showed them exactly what unfolds when it comes to an accident like this. The DUI impact, it just brings everything together. There’s just absolutely no value in drinking and driving. This is a realistic outcome and the resources that were deployed here today is typical. The extrication process, the bystanders surrounding the area, the helicopter landing. It’s as real as it gets,” he said.
Lewis arrived on scene where the four student actors were unconscious and bloody inside the mangled vehicles.
On the topic of whether the scene was too graphic for some, Lewis’ response was a definitive no.
“I don’t know if it’s graphic enough. Everyone is becoming so desensitized and if you don’t see it for yourself, you don’t really understand the impact. It’s almost like the scared straight programs where they take you to prison. It’s very insightful, very provocative, but it had such meaning,” he said.
Senior Hilario Alcaraz had a front row view of the scene.
He said the scene made him think twice about the effects of drinking and driving.
“People shouldn’t drink and drive because it’s stupid. You can take your life away and someone else’s life away as well,” he said.
Alcaraz also noted that a drunk driver changed the course of his family’s life.
“I never got to meet my sister. Before I was born she died because a drunk driver hit my dad and my sister,” he said.
Alcaraz also agreed that the mock accident scene was not too graphic for his peers.
“I think it’s fine because it shows them what could happen and it goes to show that you shouldn’t do it,” he said.
Junior Levi Lawson also watched the simulation.
He said even though the program was a simulation, it showed just how real DUI accidents are as a bystander as opposed to merely driving by the scene of an accident.
“It shows people the depth of it. People don’t realize that it is actually happening around the world,” he noted.
Another aspect of the program involves the aftermath of a fatal DUI accident.
Throughout the day, a Grim Reaper entered a random class, pointed to a student and escorted them out of the classroom.
Once removed, a clergy member entered the class and read an obituary for the student who died.
The action represents the student’s untimely demise as a DUI victim.
“The student will go to a retreat all day and won’t be in contact with anyone. It’s kind of like they’re pretend dead.
“On Friday, we will have an assembly for all of the juniors and seniors and we’ll have a guest speaker coming to show us some pictures and things like that,” Maughn said.
Nye County School District Superintendent Dale Norton said the program must be as realistic as possible to deliver the point.
“I just got done talking to one of the parents that is going to have a deceased child and she was fine until she walked up to this accident scene. She had actually written an obituary for her child just prior, but when she got to the scene it started to do a reality check. Even the mortician is here,” he said.