Students at the Griswold High School witnessed the effects drinking and driving have on young lives, Tuesday. The school driveway was the scene of a “fatal” traffic accident involving five of their classmates.
Griswold students, including the "Living Dead" gather prior to the accident scene being revealed
As the student body gathered on bleachers and two buses that were blocking their view of the crash scene pulled away, the teens witnessed the aftermath of the “crash,” which was actually staged as part of a program entitled “Every 15 Minutes.” Aptly named because on average, every 15 minutes, someone in the country dies in an alcohol related collision. Tuesday’s program began with a 9-1-1 call to Cass County Communications.
When Griswold Rescue arrived on the scene, they found the driver of a pickup 17-year old Jordyn Sindt, of Griswold, laying “dead” on the hood of the pickup, after having been ejected through the windshield.
The driver of the pickup, "dead" with a white sheet upon her.
Three teens were in a crumpled car. In the scenario, Lifenet Helicopter is called in and lands next to the crash site. The chopper transported one of the victims, 17-year old Alec Capps to a trauma center, where he later “dies.”
LifeNet touches down in front of the Griswold High School
Two other passengers in the car, driven by 18-year old Garrett Muhlbauer, of Lewis, were “injured” and transported by ambulance to the Cass County Memorial Hospital. They included 18-year old Melanie Palmer and 16-year old Austin Lorenz. A State Trooper administered a field sobriety test to Muhlbauer, who tested .09 for alcohol consumption and was “arrested” and taken to jail.
Trooper Wayne Brosam administers a field sobriety test to Muhlbauer
Muhlbauer was charged with two counts of motor vehicle homicide and cited for open container.
Judy Nelson, a Registered Nurse with the Cass County Memorial Hospital’s Emergency Room, helped facilitate the exercise. In the two-day program, one student is removed from the classroom every 15-minutes. That person becomes one of the “Living Dead.” They are returned to the classroom with a ghostly white painted face, and are told not to respond to or talk with anyone for the remainder of the day. Their parents receive a phone call from law enforcement, informing them of their child’s “death.”
The parents identify their child, "killed" in the crash.
Other activities, aside from viewing the results of the collision, include a mock trial for the accused drunk driver, an overnight retreat for students, and a separate retreat for parents. The second day culminates with a mock funeral and/or memorial service for the entire student body. When asked whether the students would actually learn something from the experience, Cass County Sheriff Darby McLaren said the serious message about the consequences of driving impaired will make them think before they get behind the wheel or ride with an impaired driver.
The program was featured last Spring, in Atlantic, as well. Judy Nelson said she hopes to have all of the school districts in the County experience it for themselves. For more information about the “Every 15-minutes” program, log on to www.every15minutes.com.