Photo By: Traci Newell/Town Crier
Mountain View High School students experienced firsthand the potential consequences of drinking and driving last week, when volunteers staged the Every 15 Minutes program.
Every 15 Minutes is a two-day exercise that challenges high school students to reflect on drinking alcohol, personal safety and mature decision-making when lives are at stake. Established in the 1990s, the program takes its name from the statistic that every 15 minutes in the U.S., someone dies from an alcohol-related collision. Since the program’s inception, that statistic has steadily improved – it is now only every 36 minutes.
The program stages a mock accident and faux injuries and deaths to communicate graphically the effects of drinking and driving.
The program began early April 17, with a person dressed as the Grim Reaper roaming the campus and removing 18 students and one teacher from their classes. Shortly afterward, a uniformed police officer entered the classrooms, informed students that their classmates had died from an alcohol-related vehicle accident and read their obituaries.
Meanwhile, the “victims” were transformed into the “living dead” via makeup and fake blood. Officials visited their parents at work or home to notify them of the deaths.
Staff, students and parents had been alerted ahead of time that this was a mock situation.
During fourth period, the students went to the football field to witness the aftermath of a drunken-driving accident.
Student Nicole Korpontinos, made up to look as if she were missing a limb and bleeding from her head, lay on the ground outside a car. A coroner took her “body” away.
Student Drew Taylor, the alleged driver of a vehicle littered with empty beer bottles, exited the car and realized what had happened as a result of his decision to drink and drive. After failing a sobriety test, Taylor was escorted away in the back of a California Highway Patrol car. At the jail, he was fingerprinted and booked.
As part of the exercise, Kor-pontinos’ parents went to the morgue to identify her body.
Two students, Russell Blockhus and Aimee Fontanilla, were trapped in another vehicle as emergency responders used the Jaws of Life to extract them. Ambulances transported Blockus and Fontanilla to Valley Medical Center.
After viewing the “accident,” students returned to their classrooms and resumed their studies – minus a few faces and haunted by the memories of the realistic scene.
Blockhus and Fontanilla arrived at Valley Medical Center for treatment but later “died” from their injuries. When their parents arrived, doctors informed them that their children were dead.
Following the exercise, the “living dead” and “crash” participants took part in an overnight retreat where they practiced team building and played trust games. Their absences from home and school intensified the emotions of family and friends after witnessing what could have been a real-life tragedy.