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Every 15 Minutes: HHS students learn about dangers of drinking and driving the hard way PDF Print E-mail
Written by Darci Tomky   
The blood on the street was fake, the screaming girl was just acting, the sirens were a drill, the Grim Reaper was pretend, and the obituary was only a script.

But the emotions—the emotions were real.

Every 15 minutes a person in the United States dies from an alcohol related crash. That’s 96 every day, 672 every week and 35,040 people every year.

That’s a big number.

Holyoke High School sophomores Molly Brandt, Erin Vieselmeyer and Ben Martinez have urged their classmates to not become part of that statistic.

To do this, the three FCCLA members coordinated the Every 15 Minutes program, a huge eye-opener for teenagers at HHS.

Last week’s events simulated real life experiences—a dramatic lesson about the dangers and consequences of drinking and driving or riding with a drunk driver.

“The reason that we do this is so we don’t have to in real life,” said HHS Principal Susan Ortner.

The Grim Reaper leads the living dead to the scene of a mock crash
Wednesday, Sept. 15 as part of the Every 15 minutes program put on by
Holyoke FCCLA chapter. The group spent the night in Sterling before
returning for the final program Thursday morning at HHS.
—Enterprise photo

Grim Reaper makes appearance at HHS

Holyoke High School students saw a lot of the Grim Reaper Wednesday, Sept. 15.

Every 15 minutes the Grim Reaper marched into a classroom, clad in black robes and gripping his scythe. Every 15 minutes the mysterious figure picked a seemingly innocent student to be his victim. Every 15 minutes a student left class with the Grim Reaper, a visual representation of a person dying in an alcohol related car crash.

Fifteen students and one teacher participated in the program, becoming the “living dead” after the Grim Reaper sought them out.

They were chosen from a cross section of the school, affecting students in every grade level from athletes to musicians and everyone in between.

After students left with the Grim Reaper, Colorado State Troopers read their obituaries to their classmates. A cross was added to the cemetery in the grass facing the high school, and white paper covered the lockers of the living dead, all a gripping reminder that those students won’t be returning to class.

Even though parents knew their children would “die” as part of the Every 15 Minutes program, emergency officials still found them at work or home to notify them of the death of their child.

“Even though I knew it was a mock notice, I felt my world crumble,” said Sharon Greenman.

“A parent’s worst nightmare and fear is losing a child,” said Kim Killin.

EMT workers slide HHS senior Becca Brandt out of the vehicle on a back
board after HVFD members cut off the roof of the car. Brandt was
pronounced dead at Melissa Memorial Hospital shortly after arriving
following the mock accident.  —Enterprise photo

Mock accident brings death to life

“Please help me!”

“How could you let this happen to me?”

“Somebody get me out of here!”

Wednesday afternoon HHS students came upon a car accident at the corner of Jules and Heginbotham in Holyoke. Even though they knew the crash scene wasn’t real, the blood-curdling cries of classmate Becca Brandt surely got their attention.

Students and teachers sat in silence, many with tear-filled eyes as they watched the events unfold before them.

The simulated crash was the result of a drunk driver losing control of his car and rolling it, a choice that would affect not only him but his two friends as well.

The driver, played by Cody Fricke, paced outside his car, seeing the damage that was the result of his bad decision. He sat with his head in his hands, not knowing what to think or do.

“I didn’t have that much to drink,” he cried. “I thought I’d be fine!”

Fricke pleaded with Austin Killin to get up, but onlookers knew Killin wouldn’t be getting up. He lay on the street in a pool of blood with several injuries that left him lifeless.

Meanwhile, Brandt was stuck in the front passenger seat of the beat-up car, screaming in pain.

Students waited for several long minutes, watching the scene play out before their eyes, until they heard the 911 call over the loudspeaker.

Town whistles and sirens blared as emergency personnel made their way to the crash. They knew it was a drill, but firefighters, EMTs and law enforcement officers treated the simulation as if it was the real thing.

As the events unfolded, students were updated with the details of what was happening.

A law enforcement officer was the first person at the accident, and his main objective was to control the scene.

Cody Fricke is interviewed by Colorado State Patrol officer J.D. Mack
during the investigation of a simulated motor vehicle accident.
It was determined Fricke was driving under the influence of alcohol
causing the death of Austin Killin and later Becca Brandt.  
—Enterprise photo

Next Holyoke Volunteer Fire Department and EMTs arrived, both seeking to assist with the medical needs of the victims.

Eyes widened as the firefighters brought out the Jaws of Life, a piece of equipment used to remove the doors and roof of the car so Brandt could be carefully treated.

The ambulance updated the hospital on the condition of the victims until Brandt could be loaded and taken to the emergency room.

A victim’s advocate was also on the scene to provide the victims with help emotionally.

With the goal of investigating the crash, Colorado State Patrol arrived at the intersection to determine if alcohol was involved.

Students watched as classmate Cody Fricke went through a voluntary roadside test. After obvious signs of alcohol consumption, the high school senior was handcuffed and taken to jail during Wednesday afternoon’s simulation.

With Brandt at the hospital and Fricke in jail, the only one left at the heart-wrenching scene was Killin. A coroner was there to care for the fatal party, and a white sheet was placed over Killin’s body, hiding his still form from the onlooking students.

Gerk Funeral Home lifted him into a body bag to be taken to the mortuary.

Ortner read Killin’s obituary to students—a group of teenagers who had suddenly gotten a big wake up call about drinking and driving from the Every 15 Minutes simulation.

Following the mock accident, half the living dead accompanied Brandt to the emergency room at the hospital.

As the doctors and nurses did everything they could for her, Brandt thought to herself, “What if this were real? What if I was actually dying?”

She forced herself to stay still, even as her crying parents came to her side after she was pronounced dead. As much as she wanted to jump up and run to them, she knew the next day she could tell her parents it would all be all right. “If I were actually dead, I wouldn’t get that chance,” she said.

Another group of students followed Killin to Gerk Funeral Home.

“I was consumed with never being able to say good-bye,” said Killin of his thoughts while lying on the pavement during the simulation.

When his family viewed his body at the mortuary, it was all he could do to not cry out to them. “I had to subdue my cries to force you to turn around,” said Killin, remembering when they left him as if he were really dead.

Yes, both Brandt and Killin would get to see their families the next day, but many victims in alcohol related crashes don’t get that chance.

Holyoke Police officer Damon Ellis and EMT Melissa Mayden try to get a
response from HHS junior Austin Killin after he was thrown from the
vehicle driven by classmate Cody Fricke during a simulated car wreck
Wednesday, Sept. 15.  —Enterprise photo

It’s a choice

Even though the shocking statistic is that every 15 minutes a person dies from an alcohol related accident, the theme of Thursday’s high school assembly was that it’s a choice.

“The choices you make are important,” said Phillips County Judge David Colver. “It’s your choice, and you have to make it. Your future is in your own hands.”

Students from the living dead addressed their classmates, reminding them drinking and driving or getting in a car with a drunk driver is a choice they have to make.

“I didn’t realize the decisions I’ve made would affect the others around me,” said sophomore Elissa Baker. “We get to choose.”

“For us, accidents like this don’t have to happen,” added Kim Killin, whose son was killed in Wednesday’s mock crash.

Students who participated in the program spent Wednesday night in Sterling, removing them from any contact with family and friends. The experience became even more real for them when they got to do things like write letters to their parents, imagining what they would have said if they had actually died.

Parents of the living dead were also given the opportunity to write letters to their children.

Emotions ran high in the HHS auditorium Thursday as students and parents read their letters.

Also taking the stage was guest speaker Beverly Funaro who shared the story of her daughter Mallory.

The 15-year-old rolled a pickup after drinking at a party. She lay in a corn field for two hours, pinned under the vehicle. The boy who was with Mallory left the scene, leaving her in the 28 degree weather with no help on the way.

“This is not happening. This is not my daughter,” was all Funaro could think.

“You fight with everything you have,” she told her daughter as she later held her shoulders and begged her to live.

The high school freshman struggled to live for three weeks. “I finally admitted it now—my precious baby was going to die,” said Funaro with tears in her eyes.

She explained there is now a law called Mallory’s Law which requires passengers to report an accident if the driver can’t.

Also addressing students at Thursday’s assembly was Chelsey Saylor, a 2002 HHS graduate.

“I hate statistics, but when you are part of one, it makes it worse,” she said. Saylor became part of the Every 15 Minutes statistic when she chose to drink and drive in March 2002, a decision that killed one passenger in her car.

Saylor actually participated as one of the living dead in the Every 15 Minutes program as a junior in 2001. She heard all the same things the students heard last week. “I chose to forget what I learned here,” she said. “This program could not make it more real for any of you.”

What only happened in a mock accident for HHS students became a very real life experience for Saylor.

“When I saw what was going on, my whole world turned around,” said Saylor, recalling the field where her friend lay pinned under her car. “I knew I had lost my friend and it was my fault because I had made that choice.”

She was then faced with a “haunting memory” that would live with her for the rest of her life.

“I pray each of you are stronger than I am,” she urged students. “Don’t become another statistic.”