A few weeks ago officials from MedExpress Ambulance Service approached Pickering High School principal Jerome Henson about mock accidents they have been conducting in Avoyelles and St. Landry Parishes. The setting for the mock accidents involves students drinking and driving after a night out at prom.
Henson thought it was a great idea to conduct the exercise for his students. Especially with prom just a week away.
The purpose of the mock accident was to show the students the reality of what could happen if they choose to drink and drive. Or they choose to get in a car with someone who has been drinking.
Sophomore students from PHS doubled as victims in the mock accident.
Braden Lebato was the driver of the car that flipped multiple times.
Following the accident, he fell out of the car with a beer can in his hand. He then stumbled around to the front of the car to check on his friend who had been thrown from the back seat through the front windshield.
Shae’La Lawrence was the passenger in the front seat. Once the car stopped rolling she was unconscious.
She regained consciousness to find her friend that had been sitting behind the driver laying over the dash through the windshield in front of her.
Ashton Fritts was also unconscious in the back seat on the passenger side.
Jaquelin Lopez was the student who was thrown from the driver’s side back seat through the windshield onto the hood of the car, dead.
Once Vernon Parish Sheriff’s Deputies Ethan Crockett and Anthony Lawrence arrived on the scene the driver was asked a few questions and given a field sobriety test.
While that was in progress ambulance units from MedExpress arrived along with a fire truck and rescue units from Sandy Hill Fire Rescue.
Once it was determined that Lopez was deceased she was moved from the car and laid on the ground and covered with a blanket.
Lawrence was then extracted from the car onto a backboard and loaded into the ambulance.
Fritts regained consciousness and needed help getting out of the back seat. He was then loaded onto a gurney and put in the back of the ambulance that then took off to the hospital.
Lebato clearly failed the field sobriety test and was placed in handcuffs. He was arrested for drunk driving and vehicular homicide.
Paramedics verified there were no signs of life for Lopez and officials from the Vernon Parish Coroner’s Office arrived to investigate and remove the body.
Lopez was placed in a body bag and loaded onto a gurney that was then put into the back of a Labby Memorial hearse and transported to the funeral home.
All of us watching knew it was just an exercise and the students in the mock accident were not really hurt. In fact, they all returned to their classroom just a few hours later perfectly fine.
However, the sad reality is an accident just like this happens every single year during prom and graduation. Tyler Martin and Terry Harris of MedExpress Ambulance Service say their company works accidents just like this every year during this time.
PHS teacher Kristen Bruce knows that reality too well.
At the age of 20 she was the one thrown through the windshield on a night out with friends who had been drinking and doing drugs.
Bruce survived her accident with scars and a metal plate holding her arm together. But not everyone is that lucky.
“You make the good decisions and come back to us the Monday after prom,” Bruce said to the students after telling them of her experience.
Henson, Bruce and everyone hope that the students all through Vernon Parish make the right decision to not drink and drive and to think before they get into a car with someone who has.
Accidents like this affect everyone and no one wants to attend a funeral when you should be attending graduation.
After the exercise was over the four students who played the victims were asked how the scenario made them feel.
“It’s an eye opener” said Lebato, the driver.
“It’s reality set in” said Lawrence, the front passenger.
A video of the mock accident can be viewed at https://www.facebook.com/leesvilledailyleader/videos/311305576251840/.