Emergency crews were unable to save the life of Denair High student Ashley Ramaley on Thursday, a victim of a drunk driving accident. While Ramaley's death was not real, as she was a student actor in the Every 15 Minutes program, the emotional impact of her death was still felt.
"It was very realistic," said Denair High senior Shanell Silva, who portrayed one of the 'living dead' as part of the program. "It made me think it could happen to everyone; my friends could be taken away from me in an instant."
Silva's reaction was exactly what the program was created to do —instill in teenagers the potentially dangerous consequences of drinking alcohol and then driving.
This lesson began on Thursday morning with a simulated car accident that involved real life emergency crews including the California Highway Patrol, which provides the program to local schools, Denair firefighters, American Medical Response ambulance medics and an Air Medical helicopter team.
Firefighters had to literally take apart one of the vehicles in the crash to remove two of the "victims," and medical crews worked to treat their "injuries." After one victim was airlifted to a hospital, another taken by ambulance and Ramaley left with the coroner, suspected "drunk driver" Weston Fair was given a field sobriety test by California Highway Patrol officer Rich Kennell.
Fair failed the simple cognitive and coordination tests and was handcuffed and taken away to jail.
"What you saw with this program is a very real scenario that happens all too often in communities just like ours," said Denair High Principal Aaron Delworth to the students gathered for the program.
"There are a lot of important events coming up, prom, graduation, end of the year trips...all of that can be ruined by one bad decision," he continued.
Although the crash scene paints a vivid visual lesson on what can happen when someone drinks alcohol and then gets behind the wheel, the program didn't end there. Throughout the day the Grim Reaper (played by parent Earl Haringa) removed students from class every 15 minutes. Those students then became the 'living dead.'
A memorial service will be held today for all the students who 'died' as part of the program.