Last updateWed, 18 Oct 2017 10am


Mtn. View High students view horrors of drinking and driving

Photo By: Traci Newell/Town Crier
Photo Traci Newell/Town Crier In a mock exercise designed to dissuade students from drinking and driving, Mountain View firefighters use the Jaws of Life to extract “injured” students from a staged drunken-driving accident at Mountain View High School last week. The Every 15 Minutes program sponsored the event.

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.

Day one

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.

Every 15 Minutes simulation - Images by Los Altos Town Crier

Day two

The program concluded Thursday with an emotional mock funeral.

The “living dead” and “crash” victims marched into the assembly carrying a white casket covered with flowers and led by a bagpiper.

Parents and friends, fighting back tears, shared what they wished they could have said to the dead students before it was too late.

“You’ve been that friend that has always been there,” one student said of Blockhus. “I was looking forward to our future. I don’t know what I’ll do without you, but I’ll miss you forever.”

“I’m here and you’re not,” one student said. “There are so many things I wish I could tell you – what happened to you should not have happened.”

Parents shared the heartache of never seeing their son or daughter learn to drive, graduate, attend college or get married.

Some of the “living dead” shared what they wished they could have told their parents.

“Dad, I’m sorry for disappointing you more often than not,” one student said.

“Today I died,” another student said. “I never got the chance to tell you how much I love you. Over the past 17 years, I’ve tried not to disappoint you and I’ve screwed up in the worst way.”

Then the program’s keynote speaker, Louise Roy, shared the true story of how she lost her son on his 21st birthday. Her son had promised to be smart and not get behind the wheel when drinking.

“When you are drinking, all those promises go out the window,” she said.

Roy received the dreaded call approximately 2 a.m. the day after his birthday – he had died in a motorcycle accident.

“There will always be this hole in my heart,” she said. “I still wake up and have to remind myself that he is no longer with us.”

She said she shares the “worst day” of her life to reach out to students – even if only one person hears the message.

“I’m sick of seeing young people die,” she said. “You are all as precious as my son.”

The audience gave Roy a standing ovation.

The assembly ended with a challenge to students to make good choices – never drink and drive and never get in a car with a driver who has been drinking.

For more information, visit www.every15minutes.com.



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