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Sobering lesson for high school students

by Jaye Sudar
WALSENBURG- The Police, Sheriff, Fire Department, Colorado State Patrol and Ambulance services converged on John Mall where a two-car accident with injuries was reported. Witnesses reported one fatality, three severe injuries, and a rolled vehicle on fire. Ten emergency vehicles reported to the accident. Flight for Life was called.
On the scene, there were six victims. The driver and baby in one vehicle were okay. One passenger was dead. The rolled vehicle ejected two passengers. One was severely injured. The police discovered that one driver was drunk and had been texting while driving. She was arrested. One other victim died at the scene due to injuries. Flight for life evacuated one teen to St. Mary Corwin.
This was the scene that greeted John Mall students on a Thursday morning. Instead of a tragedy, this was a joint exercise of the Huerfano County Emergency Management team, the Drive Smart organization and John Mall staff to provide driver’s awareness a week before prom.
Drive Smart has worked with John Mall for two years to promote safety. This year they provided a view of a crash scene. Unlike the fast-paced, adrenaline-packed fifteen minutes shown on TV or in movies, a real accident takes time. The scenario had the rollover occurring on an isolated county road. Rather than the 10 minutes it took the Sheriff’s department to arrive on the scene, it might have taken up to an hour for help to arrive.
The students witnessed triage, two victims declared dead, the evaluation and arrest of the driver. They saw how data is collected, how a victim is extracted, and how a victim is transported via Flight For Life.
Maile Gray of Drive Smart, Lorna Eddleman and Doc Siders worked with the county agencies to set up this event. Six students volunteered to play victims. They were Berrie Archuleta, Melissa Mestas, Jeremiah Hill, Garrett Norby, Paul Trujillo and Adaina Martinez. Maile Gray applauded the students and thanked Doc Siders, the Huerfano County emergency services and the Colorado State Patrol for their participation in this event.
Afterwards, the students met for questions and answers led by the Sheriff’s department. The legal and medical aspects were laid out in detail. Dispatch reminded the audience that clear communications are a necessity. People’s lives depend on that just as they do safety belts and responsible driving.
Later on the students listened to Brandon, a prom night crash survivor. His wrecked car and his story telling how he lived while his date died provided a personalized message on the importance of wearing safety belts.
Drive Smart provided a crash cart which simulated a crash at 5mph and a cart and goggles which simulated drunk driving. It is hoped that because of education fewer accidents will occur. For more information on Drive Smart, check out their website at