The grim reaper circled the scene of a mock two-car drunken-driving crash Thursday at Pacheco High School as students watched their peers carried away on stretchers.
As the scene unfolded, hundreds of students sat on bleachers looking on while the underage drunken driver of the crash frantically swung around the wreckage, checking on the other passengers of both vehicles before leading first responders to the victims.
The California Highway Patrol Los Banos Division, Los Banos Police Department, Los Banos Fire Department, Riggs Ambulance and Whitehurst Funeral Chapel responded to the accident, which included a CHP helicopter landing on a field to transport the student to a local hospital.
It was perhaps the most jarring moment of the annual “Every 15 Minutes” program held by the CHP and Los Banos Unified School District.
“It’s the impact, how real it is,” said 16-year-old junior Jazlyn Ramos.
Isabelle Marez, a 16-year-old junior, said the demonstration seemed long because it hit home hard.
“These are people that we know,” Marez said. “It’s so close to us.”
That’s the type of jolt that organizers of the event want.
“It’s very reality based,” CHP Los Banos Public Information Officer Dean Emehiser said.
Emehiser said they hope the Every 15 Minutes program will help students make positive choices as they grow older.
The program is a state-wide CHP event funded with grants through the California Office of Traffic Safety.
This year, the grant was cut in half, Pacheco High Principal Dan Sutton said, making the volunteer services given by the partner agencies even more important, Sutton said.
“It’s important to show kids there are consequences for their actions,” Sutton said. “Death is not something to play with.”
Sutton said the two-day program also includes a funeral service for the kids who “died” due to drunk driving Friday morning.
The event will include eulogies from parents and a speaker who will talk about her own real experience with drunk driving.
Vikaas Shanker: 209-826-3831, ext. 6562