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A deadly lesson
Turlock students participate in Every 15 Minutes program
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Turlock High School seniors Alexis Goularte and JT Foreman participate in the California Highway Patrol's Every 15 Minutes program Tuesday morning at the Stanislaus County Fairgrounds (CANDY PADILLA/The Journal).

The Every 15 Minutes program has existed for more than 25 years, but each simulated DUI crash is still as raw and real to participants and spectators as it ever has been.

On Tuesday, five Turlock High students were involved in a simulated accident that resulted in one student’s “death,” two “serious injuries” — one victim was transported by ambulance to a local hospital while another was airlifted to a nearby hospital — and a likely “jail sentence” for the “impaired” driver.

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Turlock Firefighters extract Turlock High senior Kevin Lizarraga out of the re-enacted car crash (CANDY PADILLA/The Journal).

J.T. Foreman played the part of the deceased passenger, Alexis Goularte portrayed the impaired driver, Sydney Streeter and Kevin Lizarraga were the critically injured, and Dalton Howry played the panicked passenger trying desperately to help in any way he could.

“I had known about the program since my sister did it during her years in high school,” said Howry, a senior and a four-year member of the school’s drama department. “If I could be given the opportunity to do it again, I’d one hundred percent do it, because this is something that is so impactful.”

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Turlock High junior Sydney Streeter is "worked on" as she is headed to an ambulance (CANDY PADILLA/The Journal).

Every aspect of the simulation is meant to be realistic for students, from the gory crash scene to the possibility that a drunk driver could rob them of someone they love. Students typically are selected based on their influence on campus and from various social niches.

The program is so named because when it was conceived, one person died every 15 minutes from an alcohol-related automobile accident.

“When we do these programs, there are no real statistics to show whether the program works,” said CHP officer Tom Olsen, public information spokesman. “What we do get are personal testimonies from people who have witnessed it. Even if they graduated 10 years ago, they’ll tell you about the Every 15 Minutes program at their school and the impact it had on their lives and their families’ lives. So, we know that it’s very effective in that manner.

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Turlock High School senior Alexis Goularte plays the drunk driver and is placed under arrest (CANDY PADILLA/The Journal).

“It’s no longer every 15 minutes. I think the last time I checked it was every 53 minutes. So, we are making that progress.”

Today will be the second part of the two-day program, featuring a “funeral” at Turlock High School for Foreman.

“You can feel the emotion of it just watching it here,” said Turlock Chief of Police Jason Hedden. “Just as a spectator watching from the outside, it’s impactful, it’s emotional. 

“I know from participating in the program when I was in high school, it was impactful then, it’s impactful now.”

Involved in Tuesday’s production were the Turlock Police Department, Turlock Fire Department, Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Office, Stanislaus State Police Department, California Highway Patrol, AMR ambulance service, and Whitehurst-Norton-Dias Funeral Service.

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Turlock High students Kaylee Amaranth, Ava Mattos, Justine Piro, Jesse Hernandez and DJ Curtice represent the "Living Dead" during the program (CANDY PADILLA/The Journal).

Daydreams and Nightmares in Modesto created the gruesome crash makeup, Starbucks provide breakfast for the crew and Sounds In Motion provided DJ services.

The Every 15 Minutes program originated in Canada and made its first appearance in California in Chico in 1995.