Tragedy unfolded in front of Pierce High School on Wednesday, March 27; two young individuals lost their lives, several injured and one, the intoxicated driver, in handcuffs and charged with driving under the influence.
Although the event was staged, it can be assured that the emotions were very, very real and that the hard facts and consequences of driving under the influence, are all too real.
The grisly mock accident scene was staged as part of the Every 15 minutes program, which aims to prevent drunk-driving fatalities. A reminder that there is no such thing as a second chance, emphasizing the minute an individual gets behind the wheel while drunk, high or distracted that they are no longer in control – and in just one second, their lives could change forever.
During Thursday morning classes, Pierce High School Students were reminded on just how quickly lives can change. Preselected students were pulled out of classrooms – every 15 minutes by the ‘Grim Reaper’.
These students became members of the walking dead, claimed victim to an alcohol related automotive fatality. The student’s obituary was read aloud to the class as they left the classroom.
Later that morning, the crash scene dramatization began where the driver of a pickup, Oscar Sanchez and his passengers Hayden Kalfsbeek, Kendra Kent and Angelina Silva were returning back to school.
The driver claiming to have had few alcoholic beverages failed to stop at the intersection of Smoky Hallow Rd, and Wildwood Road, impacting a small sedan carrying Margarito Meza, Andy Corona, Paola Ayala and Ricardo Jauregui.
Sanchez emerged from the wreck, wandering and stumbling crying in fear over his passengers and friends whom were motionless in the sedan.
As emergency personal arrived at the scene, Sanchez was completely disoriented as he tugged and pulled on the twisted metal of the vehicles trying to get the passengers to respond.
Sanchez realized the result of his decision to drive while under the influence as events unfolded.
Kalfsbeek died en route. Corona was pronounced dead at the scene and was covered and transported to the morgue.
Although a drama recreation of an actual crash scene, emergency personnel treat the crash scene very seriously using the opportunity for training purposes – making the scene very realistic. Vehicle extraction tools, the Jaws-of-Life, were used to extract occupants.
As the victims were removed one-by-one, Sanchez was apprehended by police officers and was given a field sobriety test by California High Way Patrol Officer, L. Murphy and Colusa County Sheriffs Officer K. Cooper – the officers determined Sanchez to be under the influence and placed him under arrest.
Emotions were high as the mock accident concluded, students were sent back to their classes; a mock cemetery was erected in front of the High School’s Gym, handmade tombstones marking those who lost their lives that day during event.
“I was pleased when Matt wanted to participate, I saw this program in 2009 and though it was a very good thing for the kids,” commented Tracy Delcour “I knew that it would have a big impact on him.”
Delcour’s son Matt Delcour was a participant in the Pierce High School, Every 15 Minutes program as a ‘Walking Dead”.
Parents of the participants in the program also partook in a gruesome emotional part of the program.
As the parents sit at home, or go about their day at their jobs – they often wonder where their children are and never expect the dreaded ‘knock’ on the door.
“I was prepared that someone was going to come up and deliver the “bad news” so when I saw the CHP car come up the drive way, I prepared myself and I went out to meet them,” said Delcour “They were very somber and professional, for a moment I was going to pass out. They made it feel, very real.”
When parents are greeted by a Police Officer and Chaplin, the one sentence changes their lives forever: “I hate and regret to inform you that your son/daughter has been killed by a drunk driver.” The mothers fall on the floor; uncontrollable, deep, heart-broken, unable to control themselves, while fathers try their very best.
“I was told to go into my son’s room and think about him not coming home,” said Delcour, “I did and then the tears started.”
“We have always told our boys that if they do drink somewhere, to call us or just stay put, no questions asked,” said Delcour, “I hope our boys will make good choices and not drink and drive, this was a good refresher and wake-up call.”
The all too real event played out to completion that included a funeral service the following day after the students involved in the event attended an overnight retreat.
During Thursday’s simulated funeral service, several speakers shared stories of their experiences and consequences of driving drunk, or riding with a drunk driver.
The event was made possible through the collective efforts of: the California Highway Patrol, Colusa County Sheriff’s Department, Arbuckle Fire Department, Colusa Regional Medical Cetner, Enloe, and McNary-Moore Funeral Service.
The program is named for the statistic that someone dies in an alcohol-related accident every 15 minutes during its creation back in 1995 and is presented in hopes that our teens will reflect upon their decisions to drink and drive or to get into a car with someone who has been drinking.
The rates of alcohol-related fatalities have gradually declined and at the end of 2007, it is reported that one death occurred every 40.4 minutes. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in 2010 more than 10,000 people died in alcohol-impaired crashes. That is one death every 51 minutes.