Canby students witness potential impacts of distracted, intoxicated driving
Warning: This story contains graphic content and images that some may find disturbing
Paramedics and police blared their sirens this morning as they rushed to Canby High School—not for an actual emergency, but for a mock emergency.
On Thursday, May 9 at about 9:30 a.m., Canby High School hosted a mock crash at Cougar Stadium in coordination with Oregon Impact, Canby Fire District, American Medical Response and Canby Police Department.
The goal: to remind young drivers of the dangers and consequences of unsafe driving behaviors like distracted driving, driving under the influence and not wearing a seatbelt.
"We're grateful to partner with Oregon Impact to demonstrate the potentially deadly consequences from just one bad choice," said Cari Sloan, CHS associate principal. "We hope the mock crash will help students be safe this prom and graduation season. We want them to make responsible decisions as drivers and passengers."
Students filled the stadium not knowing what the assembly was about. It started with a light-hearted, grade-level dance competition. But then came the sound of a crash and the unveiling of two smashed-up vehicles.
Canby High student actors Arika Evans, Gage Lemuz, Carmella Verkest, Stephanie Calderon, Jan Bermudez, Jafet Mendez, Yesenia Hernandez and Stephanie Wise were drenched in blood and thrown about.
The attendees chattered for just a moment about what they were seeing, but the crowd quickly fell silent.
Student Trevor Taylor narrated the fictional events of the crash involving Canby students, one of whom was under the influence of alcohol and marijuana.
The student attendees watched as police and paramedics showed up to the scene. They watched as paramedics decided which of their peers to treat and which to presume dead.
In the end, five were taken away in ambulances, one was arrested and two were loaded into a hearse.
"During the planning, it all felt kind of lighthearted, almost like a skit," said CHS student leader Sarah Patton. "But, then seeing it all out here, like seeing the hood ripped off the car and people that you've known for years—just being on the same team as them and spending most of your hours with them—and then seeing them dead and being taken away in a hearse. It's more than a skit. It felt real."
Fortunately, the mock crash wasn't real; but one mom, Jeannette Leggett, shared the story of her son's death in a crash much like the mock crash—and her story was very real.
"My son ended up in the ditch, where a rock took out the entire right side of his head," Leggett said. "And by the entire right side of his head, I don't mean that you could see some blood trickling like these kids. I mean that his friends got to see his brain exposed."
Leggett described his son's last moments through the words of a friend who was there: "'His eyes went dead, but they wouldn't close.'"
Principal Greg Dinse too shared the story of a real crash involving alcohol and marijuana that killed two adults and four of his high school peers.
"As you see I'm choking up a little bit," Dinse said. "I went to high school with 300 students. That was four students. That was more than 1 percent of the student body population that was killed because of those poor choices.
"We don't want you guys to be a poor choice," Dinse said to his student body. "Ask for help."
Dinse further warned of the dangers of texting and driving, noting that it is equivalent to drinking four beers.
"It's such an easy decision, just to say, 'Oh, I'm going to look at my phone real quick,'" said student leader Ruby Kayser. "I think a lot less thought goes into texting and driving than drinking and driving, but both can end the same way."
At the end of the event, Patton offered some frank advice for her peers.
"Don't be stupid," she said. "When you glance at your phone, you don't think, 'I could kill three people by doing this.' No one thinks of it like that. But when Dinse said texting and driving is the equivalent of drinking four beers: I've never heard it like that, but it's true. So, don't even bother with it. It's not worth it."
For more information on the work of Oregon Impact and mock crashes, visit oregonimpact.org.