MCHS held a collision scenario to illustrate the consequences of impaired driving Thursday. The scenario was made possible with the assistance of Morinvile Peace Officers, RCMP members, firefighters and paramedics. – Stephen Dafoe Photos
By Stephen Dafoe
Morinville – Sirens screamed through the streets of Morinville Thursday morning as police, paramedics and firefighters arrived at the scene of a two-vehicle collision behind Morinville Community High School that claimed the life of a Morinville youth and sent three others to hospital with undisclosed injuries. One student was arrested at the scene and later charged with impaired driving.
The only upside to Thursday’s student tragedy is the fact the deceased was a rescue manikin, the injured students got off the gurneys and removed their theatrical makeup, and the impaired student charged in the collision was merely playing a part in an educational scenario.
With graduation ceremonies scheduled for May 4, MCHS decided to take the important message of the consequences of drinking and driving to graphic levels this year.
“Anything that we can do to increase awareness and make the students think about what it is they are doing, what they are going to be part of, is incredible,” said MCHS Principal Todd Eistetter. “Unfortunately many of the teenagers this age feel that they are bullet proof – that this is not going to happen to them. And not until it does happen to them or to someone very close to them does it really hit home.”
Eistetter said he anticipates many media stories between now and the end of June reporting on tragedies involving grads and drinking and driving. The school has chosen to take preventative measures by reinforcing the message in a variety of ways. Those methods included Thursday’s ultra-realistic collision simulation and a presentation from MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving), the latter including a face-to-face encounter with a woman who lost her 4-year-old grandson because of a drunk driver. Next week students will spend the week leading up to grad with a coffin in the school, a visual reminder of the potential outcome of impaired driving.
“Anything that can be done needs to be done,” Eistetter said. “It’s critical. They don’t necessarily understand the gravity of it, perhaps, because for some of them alcohol is a normal part of their life. It can also be a normal part of their death.”
One student who was moved by Thursday’s collision scenario is Grade 12 student Paige Brenneis. “It was eye opening,” she said of watching the collision unfold. “Personally, I’d never drink and drive, but it really hit in a spot where I wonder why people would do it. It felt so real. Even though it was a demonstration it felt real.”
Brenneis said she was quite moved by the demonstration and seeing the various emergency services in action to deal with the collision and those injured by it. “It brought tears to my eyes because it was just so emotional,” she said.
While Brenneis was shedding a few real tears watching the events unfold, fellow student Johnny Baillargeon was shedding a few for theatrical purposes. The student played the role of the impaired driver and turned on the waterworks when he was told by police what his actions had caused.
“I tried to make it seem like I was drinking and driving to let the grads know this isn’t ok and just showing them what a real life experience would be like if you were to get in an accident and it’s your fault,” Baillargeon said, adding he feels impaired driving is a stupid and ridiculous thing to do.
But while the student did his part to give his fellow students a true-to-life experience, having the cuffs slapped on his wrists by an RCMP officer gave him his own taste of that experience. “He put them on really, really tight,” he said. “Getting handcuffed and then put against the car – that just put me through. Holy, man, I’ve got to stay away from this. I’ve got to make sure I don’t ever do this. I can’t get arrested for something as stupid as drinking and driving.”
Morinville Community High School has 128 students graduating this year. Graduation ceremonies are set to take place May 4.