There are few occasions where you can get several hundred students to be attentive and quiet for any length of time. The Mock Accident held at Mark Twain Junior/Senior High School was one of those occasions.
The sight before them was somber and scary. A little red car was smashed, its front end crumbled and windshield in pieces. Firemen bustled about, accessing the situation, checking on the condition of the passengers. The young man thrown through the windshield was dead, another fatality statistic to add to the MSHP report. The three remaining passengers of the car were each extracted from the car and carefully placed on stretchers. The covered body lay beside the car while emergency personnel rolled the injured victims to the awaiting ambulances.
Nearby was the small pick-up that had rammed the car. Standing beside it was the driver, apparently unscathed by the accident. Sitting on the ground was his passenger, dazed and bloody from a facial wound and a bleeding arm. Sobbing, she answered questions from both medical personnel and the State Trooper. While she was accessed and bandaged, the State Trooper talked to the young man who was driving. Steering him to the yellow line he instructed him to walk along its edge. After conducting additional sobriety tests, the young man was handcuffed and led away.
Center Fire Chief Pete Hilgenbrinck explained the procedure as the New London firemen used the Jaws of Life to cut away the door, the trunk lid, and the top of the car. “This is just to show the kids what they would see and hear in a similar situation.” The spreaders had been used on the trunk earlier to extract one of the car’s passengers. The cutters were used to slice through the roof joints and the pinchers were used to remove the door. “The kids were great,” said Hilgenbrinck, referring to the six students who portrayed the crash victims.
Jamie Quick, New London Fire Chief said that they had been contacted by Ralls 911. “We have multiple extraction tools. We’ve used them quite a bit in New London and all of our firemen have been well-trained.” He said NLFD has recently received a grant for stabilizing poles and air bags that should arrive in July. “I hope this opens kids’ eyes,” he added. “One bad mistake can cost a kid his life.”
Quick introduced Amy Graves, who had portrayed one of the passengers in the car. She was involved in a serious accident on July 5, 2016. “I rolled a car seven times,” she said biting her lip. Quick pointed to the long thin scar on her forehead from her scalp to her nose. “I was in a little Nissan. The roof caved in and when I went up, I cut my head. I went back and forth from the front to the back, I was so scared.” Looking at the Quick she added, ”It opens your eyes.”
When asked how it felt to play the corpse, Corbin Eckler said, “It’s different. I’ve never seen a wreck. It was interesting to see what they do. I didn’t know all that went on.”
Colten Barnes stood nearby, now free from the handcuffs. What was it like to be handcuffed and led away? “Yeah, I didn’t like that,” he said.
The event was sponsored by the MTHS Student Council and made possible by dozens of community volunteers. Eric Joiner has been organizing these programs at Van-Far High School every other year since 1989 and had been asked to set one up for Mark Twain. Each of the three town’s fire departments responded, bringing a total of 15 firemen/first responders. Ralls County Ambulance provided two vehicles and several attendants. Ralls County 911 handled the paging and the communication. Air Evac 5 out of Quincy was called in and the students all had a chance to circle around to see inside the helicopter after it landed. Several law enforcement officers from the county were on hand and two Missouri State Highway Patrol troopers handled the interviews with the driver and passenger of the truck. Colten Barnes, Corbin Eckler, Amy Graves, Aidan Epperson, Lauren Williams, and Jason Brumbaugh portrayed the students involved in the accident.
Mary Jones, MTHS Student Council Sponsor, said that the students would go to an assembly after lunch. There, Ralls 911 personnel and other emergency agency representatives would go over the procedures used in the Mock Accident.
There was no doubt that the Mock Accident made an impact.