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Crash simulation strikes chord with GHS students

Staff writer

Goessel High School students got a close look at the aftermath of an alcohol-related crash. City, county, and state agencies presented a simulated crash April 1 to show what can happen when students make unsafe choices.

The timing of the simulation was no coincidence, GHS Principal Marc Grout said. The event was staged to keep safety fresh in students’ memories when they attended prom Saturday night.

In the simulation, senior Austin Unruh played an intoxicated driver who caused the crash. Junior Weston Hiebert was the driver of the other car in the crash, and juniors Aspen Frey and Sierra Dirksen were passengers in the cars.

Unruh was given a field sobriety test and arrested in the demonstration. The script called for Hiebert to be “dead” when responders arrived. He was placed in a real body bag and taken in a hearse.

Dirksen and Frey were injured and taken to hospitals; Dirksen by LifeTeam helicopter and Frey by ambulance.

After the simulation, the school held an assembly to teach students about road safety. Law enforcement and medical personnel presented information.

Goessel resident Fred Schmidt told the students of his injuries in an accident with an intoxicated driver. He said doctors told him he would never walk again, but he is getting closer to being able to walk unaided.

The simulation was the first of its kind at GHS, Grout said. The idea first was discussed about the time of the 2008 prom, he said. Planning began in February.

Notices were sent home with students so parents wouldn’t be surprised by the simulation, but few details were given.

School counselor Janna Duerksen said she tried to gauge students’ response after the simulation.

“Some students said it was too real,” Duerksen said. “There were students who were in tears.”

Seeing their classmates in the simulation was important, she said. It reminded students that kind of accident happens to real people, not just on the news.

“I hope they think about choices they make,” Duerksen said. “This could actually happen to someone.”

Goessel First Response Crew Captain James Voth said the simulation was a good opportunity to practice interagency cooperation. He said Goessel responders rarely see alcohol-related accidents, but people should remain vigilant.

“Our community is by no means immune,” Voth said.

Dirksen said they were asked to participate in the simulation one week in advance. Unruh was specifically asked to play the intoxicated driver. Hiebert volunteered to play the dead driver.

Dirksen and Frey played rock, paper, scissors to decide who would be transported by helicopter.

Frey said she was surprised how in-control the firefighters, first responders, and emergency medical technicians were. It looked like chaos, but they knew what to do and did it, she said.

Agencies involved in the simulation were Goessel Fire Department, Goessel First Response, Goessel Police Department, Marion County Emergency Medical Services, Marion County Sheriff’s Department, Kansas Highway Patrol, and LifeTeam air medical transport. Miller Funeral Home of Goessel also participated.

Duerksen received mostly positive feedback about the program. She said it is likely the school will have similar demonstrations every three years.

Last modified April 9, 2009

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