TRUCKEE, Calif. — Truckee High School senior Gustavo Cabrera played dead Wednesday morning, lying faced-down on the green crumpled hood of a Subaru Legacy after being involved in a mock head-on collision on the school’s premises early that morning.
In on the act was the Truckee Police Department, with some of its officers rushing along Donner Pass Road to the accident scene in response to a recorded 911 call, the piercing sound of their cruisers’ sirens alerting everyone in the vicinity of their approach.
Once on scene, officers checked on the youths involved in the accident before soon being joined by Truckee Fire Protection District, Calfire and California Highway Patrol officials.
With precision, emergency service personnel set to work, investigating the accident and extracting the injured teenagers out of the wreckage — needing the Jaws of Life and an axe to do so for those in the other mock accident vehicle, a white Subaru Legacy — before transporting them to the hospital by way of an ambulance and helicopter. On the sidelines, watching quietly as this scene unfolded, was the Truckee High student body.
“I thought it was very provocative,” said senior Nico Kuyper, shortly afterwards. “(It) made emotions come up for sure.”
This was all part of an Every 15 Minutes simulation staged at the school, designed to inform students of the dangers of drinking and driving.
The mock accident left two dead, one seriously injured, others mildly injured and one arrested for vehicular manslaughter and driving under the influence, among other charges.
“Hopefully that shows what the ramifications could be — that they could be injured or killed or their friends could be seriously injured or killed,” said Ryan Moreau, school resource officer.
This simulation came at time when graduation for THS students is only three weeks away.
“Typically when this program is done, we try to do it around a time when students might be drinking the most,” Moreau said.
The last time THS hosted an Every 15 Minutes simulation was three years ago, and it left an lasting impression on current senior Olivia Duner, who played the drunken driver in this year’s mock accident.
“To lose your classmates in such an instant, and thinking about not seeing your friends anymore or your family, your parents — we saw parents crying … it was hard,” she said.
Students who didn’t play a role in the mock accident filed back into school to resume their day, but as the day wore on, their numbers gradually shrunk.
Starting at 10:45 a.m., the grim reaper, played by Truckee CHP Officer Derrick Delong, along with THS senior Shayann Storm in the role of an angel, pulled a student out of class every 15 minutes to represent the number of Americans who die daily as a result of an alcohol-related collision.
Each pulled student had his or her obituary read out loud to the class by the teacher, naming those survived by the student and highlighting contributions the student made to the school and greater community.
“As the whole process continues for the next day, and they start losing more of their classmates, then it’s going to really start hitting home,” said THS Principal Greg Dettinger.
By the end of the school day, 23 fake graves, each with the name and lifespan of the dead on them, were staked in the ground near the entrance of the school. Those students did not return to class or home, but stayed overnight at Martis Camp, writing a letter to their parents.
They rejoined their classmates Thursday morning at an assembly, with the plan for one of the living dead students read their letter, Moreau said. A student-made video of the events leading up to the mock accident, along with its aftermath, was shown, and a number of speakers spoke to the dangers of drinking and driving.
Truckee Police, in conjunction with CHP, sponsored the two-day program, with funding provided by a portion of a $9,000 grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
“Ultimately, we hope it saves lives,” Dettinger said.
To learn more about Every 15 Minutes, visit www.every15minutes.com.
“To lose your classmates in such an instant, and thinking about not seeing your friends anymore or your family, your parents — we saw parents crying … it was hard.”
Truckee High senior