Thursday, April 24, 2014

Mock Accident

Mock Accident highlights very real danger

By Will Bublitz

Sometimes having one’s nose rubbed in the reality of what a fatal traffic accident is really like can have a more lasting impact than all the hackneyed reminders to “don’t drink and drive.” 

That was the purpose of the “Mock Crash” held for the county’s high school students at the Lincoln County Fairgrounds in Hugo last Thursday, April 17. The event simulated a fatal crash scene with law enforcement and fire/rescue crews responding to assist the victims.

As the students from Limon, Genoa-Hugo and Karval high schools filed into the fairgrounds’ grandstand last Thursday, they were presented with a stage crash scene with a heavily damaged car lying in the middle of the rodeo arena.

In the Mock Crash scenario, a car with five teenagers inside had been speeding down a local county road when it lost control and rolled over. The accident “victims” were portrayed by five seniors from the Limon and Genoa-Hugo high schools.

As part of the scenario, two of the teens, who had not been wearing seatbelts, had been thrown from the vehicle and lay “dead” on the ground, while two other teens with serious injuries were trapped inside the crushed vehicle. The teen driver, who escaped injury in the crash, was seen wandering around outside vehicle in an obviously inebriated condition.

Over the grandstand loudspeakers, the students heard a dispatcher from the Lincoln County Communication Center notify law enforcement officers and fire/rescue units of the crash and ask for their immediate response.

With sirens wailing and emergency lights flashing, patrol cars from the Lincoln County Sheriff’s deputies, Limon Police and Hugo Marshal’s Office  sped into the arena. Immediately following were fire trucks and rescue vehicles from the Hugo and Limon fire departments, as well as ambulances from Limon and Hugo.

Working rapidly, the firefighters extracted the injured teens from the wrecked car by using hydraulic cutters to remove its crushed roof. The paramedics and Emergency Medical Technicians provided first aid and stabilized the accident “victims” before placing them in the ambulances to be taken from the scene.

As this was going on, a medical helicopter from North Colorado Medevac, based in Akron, landed just outside the arena. It had arrived to simulate rushing critically injured “victims” to an intensive care facility at a Front Range hospital.

The two teen “fatalities” were covered with sheets at the simulated crash scene. Lincoln County Coroner Jennifer Nestor and members of her staff arrived to take charge of the bodies.

Also arriving at the Mock Crash scene were troopers of the Limon office of the Colorado State Patrol to conduct an accident investigation. They interviewed the teen driver and had him perform the voluntary roadside maneuvers to help determine his sobriety.

When the teen driver failed to successfully perform the roadside maneuvers, the troopers placed him under arrest on the charge of driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs. Handcuffs were locked on the teen’s wrists before he was placed in the back of a patrol car for transport to the county jail for booking and incarceration.

The scenario was rounded out with the mother of one of the “victims” emotionally reading an  obituary about her “dead” daughter. She also made a plea to the assembled high school students to make better choices to avoid inflicting this kind of emotional pain and suffering on their parents, families and friends by their untimely deaths in traffic accidents.

The Mock Crash ended with some strong remarks to the assembled high school students by local law enforcement officers and fire/rescue personnel, including Colorado State Patrol Trooper Josiah Ii who organized last week’s event.

“As law enforcement officers and first responders, we see the raw reality of poor choices every time we arrive at a crash scene,” Ii said. “We’ve heard the goodbyes of the victims as they die in front of us. As we look at each crash scene, we see a multiple of poor choices such as driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, not buckling up, friends allowing friends to drive drunk, and distracted driving. As law enforcement officers, EMS, Flight for Life, and fire and rescue, we see these kinds of tragedies on a regular basis.”

Lincoln County’s District Attorney Jim Bartkus went into detail on the legal consequences, describing the years of prison facing those found guilty of vehicular homicide and vehicular assault because they were found guilty of driving intoxicated.

“I prosecute these cases,” Bartkus said. “This is real. Colorado law is not very forgiving.”
Also speaking was Lincoln County Sheriff Tom Nestor who told the students that he personally knew many of them and their families. He asked them to never put him into the situation where he would be forced to inform their parents that they had been killed in a traffic accident. “Please make good choices,” he said.

Last Thursday’s Mock Crash was a collaboration between several local agencies including the Hugo Fire and Ambulance, Limon Fire and Ambulance, Lincoln County Sheriff, Hugo Marshal, Limon Police, Lincoln County Coroner, Lincoln County District Attorney and Colorado State Patrol. Also participating was North Colorado Medevac. Winterberg Towing of Limon provided the wrecked car for the scenario.

The five high school seniors who were the actors in the Mock Crash scenario were: Gavin Liggett, Limon; Cindy Chambers, Genoa-Hugo; Cody Bennett, Limon; Vincent Ayala, Genoa-Hugo; and Tia Phillip, Limon.

Trooper Ii commended all of those who participated in last Thursday’s event.

“I want to thank all the departments for making this possible,” he said. “We are all united in caring about this community and trying to prevent accidents like the one shown here from happening to any of our students.”

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