MAY 19, 1997
A drunk driver, played by Wes Strauss, struggles to maintain his balance after causing a two-car, one-fatality, six-injury accident. Emergency aid units responded to the reenactment in front of the 1997 Inglemoor High School graduating class. With prom and graduation coming up, the drill was designed to make students think about the consequences of drunk driving.
Photo by Andrew Walgamott/Northwest News.
by Andrew Walgamott, staff reporter
(In this simulation, the injured and dead were played by members of the IHS drama department. Their involvement stabbed the point home even more to the students.)
Setting the scene
Prom night, 12:30 a.m.: Wes Strauss, Kathryn Ellis, Crystal Borm, and Brad Lohann, Inglemoor High School seniors graduating in a few weeks, are restless for some action. They've had a few beers and now they're hungry. They have to drive, find some all-night burrito stand or sandwich stop, flash up and down the streets with a carload of pretty girls. They hop in the Eagle Premier and roar off.
Tires squeal; metal clashes.
The drill begins
Students pull back a large blue tarp to reveal a two-car, head-on accident. There have been six injuries, and one death, Heidi Lauer, an 18-year-old white female, your daughter-sister-girlfriend-student-nextdoor neighbor. Lauer was thrown through the windshield of the Honda Accord she was riding in. She died instantly. Fire crews put a blue blanket over her and worked on the injured.
The 1997 graduating class at Inglemoor watched the "DWI Drill," a brutally visual demonstration of the consequences of a drunk driving accident, last Thursday. The drill begins with the crash and brings in various emergency units such as Northshore Fire Department, King County Police, Evergreen Medic One, Shannon and Shepard Ambulance Services, and Airlift NW in a realtime coordinated response to the accident. The message is simple:
"Don't drink and drive," Northshore Fire Department Fire Prevention Specialist Terri Jones said. "[The drill is] designed to have students make an informed decision not to drink and drive. And to show them what it takes for fire service and other agencies to respond to this type of accident."
Aimed at preventing such tragedies at the end of the school year and showing the consequences of drunk driving, students were hit hard by the graphic realism.
"I think the kids were expecting something kind of cheesy and were surprised. The reaction of fire crews and the medics made it real," said Anne McKenna.
ASB president Craig Wenaweser said he was deeply affected when fire crews cut away the roof of the Honda and pulled the critically injured Sean Mitchell from the wreckage. "He's one of my friends."
"It kinda made me sick to my stomach," said Wes Strauss, who played the drunk driver. Strauss said he had plans for prom night, but "[they aren't] going to be involving any alcohol."
One teacher was so affected by the demonstration that she couldn't talk about it until the next day, according to IHS ASB Director Sally Barnum.
As the students watched, their thoughts were on family and friends who'd been involved in drunk driving accidents. Wenaweser and McKenna both were aware of friends who'd been affected.
Realism beats speeches
Anne McKenna said that speeches weren't always effective because of the repetition of an anonymous accident. "But seeing people you know bloody and hanging out of the window; it hit home even more."
McKenna wished other classes had been able to see the demonstration. "I wish they could have done it for the whole school. It's not just prom (parties), it's every weekend for these kids," she said.
Fire crews used the "jaws of life" to bite the hatchback off the Honda and put Sean Mitchell on a gurney for transport via Airlift NW. In the drill, he suffered from multiple leg and head fractures and lung punctures. Gurneys loaded with classmates were tended to. Though not as critically injured as the driver of the Honda, each was outfitted with neck braces.
Included in the drill was the questioning of the drunk driver, incredibly the only one capable of moving after the accident. Strauss was questioned, then handcuffed and put in a squad car by King County Police Officer Mark Childers. Strauss would be charged, possibly with vehicular homicide.
Officer Childers said the scene was a realistic portrayal of a real accident scene, but noted that with prom and graduation coming up, it was difficult to get through to the students. This graphic reminder may have been the most powerful cue.
"With this time of year, you can tell them [not to drink and drive], but with a visual demonstration, it drives it home."