Mock accident claims students’ attention, not lives

Rawlins Daily Times, Trudy Balcom Members of the Saratoga Volunteer Fire Department responded to a mock accident outside Saratoga Middle and High School Tuesday morning. One fireman crawled into the overturned vehicle in which four “victims” were trapped to assess the rescue operation. Eight emergency agencies participated in the disaster drill.

Rawlins Daily Times, Trudy Balcom
Members of the Saratoga Volunteer Fire Department responded to a mock accident outside Saratoga Middle and High School Tuesday morning. One fireman crawled into the overturned vehicle in which four “victims” were trapped to assess the rescue operation. Eight emergency agencies participated in the disaster drill.

By Trudy Balcom

tbalcom@rawlinstimes.com

SARATOGA — A mock car accident staged outside of Saratoga Middle and High School Tuesday attempted to bring to life the deadly realities of what can happen when texting and driving.

“We used to stage these mock wrecks to warn students about drinking and driving, but now texting is a lot more common,” explained Carbon County School District No. 2 Superintendent Jim Copeland.

Carbon County Emergency Manager John Zeiger planned the event over the past month in cooperation with other local agencies. He said that after a accident drill held at the Saratoga Swimming Pool last year, he and other local emergency officials discussed the possibility of staging an accident near the school. He said it was kind of tough getting the event scheduled with so many people involved, and the end of the school year closing in.

“We kind of did this one in a hurry, but I’m very pleased with the turnout,” he said. “I hope the students get something out of it,” he added.

Eight Carbon County emergency agencies participated in the exercise, including Carbon County Emergency Management, Saratoga Fire Department, South Central Wyoming EMS, Platte Valley Medical Clinic, Carbon County Sheriff, Wyoming Highway Patrol, Carbon County Public Health and Carbon County Coroner Paul Zamora.

The students filed out onto the grassy roadside near the entrance to the school parking lot. The sky was mostly overcast, with temperatures huddling in the mid-40s. The students chattered and laughed as they watched the emergency personnel scurrying around the accident scene. A few plucked dandelions and placed them beside one of the accident “victims” lying near the roadside. But they became quiet and somber when the Corner’s vehicle pulled up, and they watched the two “fatalities” zipped into body bags.

Rawlins Daily Times, Trudy Balcom After members of the SVFD used the Jaws of Life to remove the roof of the overturned vehicle, the last “victims” were pulled from the wreck. The vehicle was donated for the mock accident by a member of the SVFD.

Rawlins Daily Times, Trudy Balcom
After members of the SVFD used the Jaws of Life to remove the roof of the overturned vehicle, the last “victims” were pulled from the wreck. The vehicle was donated for the mock accident by a member of the SVFD.

At the completion of the drill, the students gathered in the school gym for a presentation by Wyoming State Trooper Tommy Kennedy. Kennedy presented photos he had just taken at the event, and explained to students how he would investigate the scene of the accident.

When his photo of one of the fatality victim’s driver license flashed on the screen, he explained how he would have to call that person’s parents to notify them of their son’s death. “And it’s even worse when you know that person and their family,” he said.

The driver of the overturned car, he said, would be charged with vehicular homicide for the “death” of two of his classmates.

Thatcher Spiering, a senior, said the school principal, Mrs. Linda Butler, volunteered him to participate in the accident. He ended up portraying one of the fatalities.

“It was kind of surreal,” he said. The other student who portrayed a fatality, Maya Zeiger, agreed. “It was very weird to get put in a stretcher and put in a body bag,” she said.

“You don’t know how scary it can be. It was scary when they were cutting off the roof of the car,” said the driver of the “rollover” car, Morgan Rempel.

“I just hope it impacted the school the way it should have,” said Spiering.

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