Hayden Walker opened his eyes to see the inside of the zipper on a body bag.
“It was terrifying. It very much felt real,” said Walker, a senior at Tri-Valley High School in Downs.
Walker and four of his peers acted as victims of a mock car accident on the lawn of the high school in April to show their classmates the shocking consequences of driving while texting or intoxicated, especially with prom season approaching.
Two cars were arranged as if they were in a T-bone crash. Seniors Jordan Symanski, Alexis Myszka and Jared Lauritson sat in one car, covered in cosmetic blood. Lauritson, at the wheel, held an empty brown bottle to suggest he was driving under the influence.
In the other car, Walker slumped in his seat with his cellphone in his lap to indicate distracted driving. Behind the crash, senior Abigail Johnson lay in the grass, acting as if she were thrown from the car.
Senior Joe Bair applied realistic makeup, mirroring burns and lacerations, to his peers’ faces.
Before the dramatization began, Johnson joked about taking a nap from her position in the sun, and the other young actors admired their costume makeup – but soon the atmosphere changed.
A swarm of emergency vehicles, lights flashing, from the Downs fire and police departments, LeRoy and Heyworth ambulance services, McLean County Sheriff Department, Illinois State Police and a medical helicopter from Champaign descended on the scene and officials treated it like a reality.
The entire school watched from the lawn as first responders assessed the crash by inspecting wounds, cutting away the doors on the cars and loading the actors onto stretchers. Soon the drone of the incoming helicopter deafened the crowd and emergency medical technicians pretended to load a student into the helicopter.
“It’s important to show this while they’re at a young age,” said Downs Fire Chief Mike Manint. “Many of them are young drivers and this is what it looks like if you make the wrong decision.”
In the flurry of emergency activity, Symanski wiped away a real tear as EMTs gently fitted her with a neck brace. She was wheeled on a stretcher into the back of an ambulance.
“It was really freaky to see Abigail on the ground and a sheet draped over Hayden. It’s eye-opening to see just how everything happens. It’s not at all what I expected,” she said after the simulation.
Lauritsou hoped the intense scene sent a message to his classmates.
“You have to do what’s smart and right and make good decisions. It’s one thing to hear and talk about this kind of situation. Seeing it done like this is another,” he said.
Junior Bri Haerr said seeing the mangled cars and classmates covered in stage blood was scary.
“I wouldn’t want that to happen in real life,” she said.
Junior Karigan Houston said she would keep the event in mind during prom celebrations.
“I’m going to make sure everyone driving is sober and reliable,” said Houston. “I hope everyone is smart enough not to make a mistake like that.”
Downs Police Chief Josh Dingler spoke at a school assembly after the event.
“This scene was extremely realistic. Hopefully it gave people a fresh reminder of the dangers that can take place when you show off or act irresponsible. If we changed one person’s viewpoint today, that’s all I care about,” said Dingler.
Like most high schools, Tri-Valley will host an after-prom event until 3 a.m. at the school after Saturday’s dance. These post-prom events include games, prizes and food to keep students occupied and entertained.
Students can only leave early with a handwritten note from parents.
Tri-Valley also sent a letter home to parents with safety tips and conversation starters from www.bnparents.org.
Tri-Valley Superintendent Dave Mouser expects the mock accident was a good reminder prior to prom season, but said the idea should be observed all the time.
“We’re so distracted as a society in general. Adults make bad decisions, too,” said Mouser. “I hope by example this teaches students to lead courageously and they stand up for what is right. You hope this is the only example they have to see.”
Was this article valuable?
Here are more articles you may enjoy.