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Mock crash shows dangers of drinking, driving

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Updated: June 2, 2013 6:09AM



HOBART — Shortly after 11:15 a.m. Monday, two Hobart High School students were killed in an alcohol-fueled crash in the school’s parking lot.

The driver of the blue minivan was arrested on suspicion of driving while intoxicated, and occupants of both the car and the minivan sustained serious injuries.

Paramedics and police swarmed the scene, and a helicopter landed in the soccer field to transport a critically injured student to a nearby trauma center.

But it was all for show.

No one was actually harmed; the crash was elaborately re-enacted as part of the Every 15 Minutes program so students could see the real-life consequences of driving drunk, while on drugs or texting. The program also includes a courtroom session, a memorial service for the victims and a students randomly plucked out of class every 15 minutes to signify the frequency of fatalities in these types of crashes.

Hundreds of freshmen and sophomores witnessed the grisly scene — one that would be repeated for juniors and seniors in the afternoon. A passenger in the minivan had flown through the windshield on impact and landed on the car’s hood. Passengers were screaming for help and were covered in fake blood when they were extricated. “Dead” students and the Grim Reaper walked through the chaos.

The father of one of the victims was trying to push his way past police to see his daughter’s fate.

This is the third time Hobart has staged the crash for students. Hobart Police Lt. Jack Grennes brought the program to the attention of the school in 2010 since he thought it was an effective way of showing the dangers of driving while distracted. For about six months, Grennes and Cathy Nelson, who teaches English and theater, help prepare about 55 students for their roles from paramedics to bloodied passengers.

“You have to sign a contract to participate,” Nelson said. “You agree to make good decisions during the year. And it’s not just theater kids. It’s kids who are passionate about the issue.”

The message hit home in particular to 2012 Chesterton graduate Sarah Franiak, who was back to help out after playing an emergency medical technician in 2011. Franiak was seriously injured in a November 2012 crash, in which she broke two vertebrae and a tooth, suffered nerve damage in her left arm and bruises on her face, and received dozens of staples in her legs.

“I don’t really remember what happened (when the car hit the tree),” Franiak said. “But it could have been something as simple as bending down to pick up a CD and taking my eyes off the road.”

Franiak said the program really has a strong impact on students.

“My friends refused to even touch their phones in their cars for weeks,” Franiak said.

Hobart Police Chief Rick Zormier said programs such as Every 15 Minutes can have a huge impact if they keep just one kid from making a bad decision. Fifteen to 20 Hobart Police officers participated in the crash — including Detective Sgt. David Grissom as the Grim Reaper. Zormier said most were off-duty officers who volunteered to participate, so the department wouldn’t have to take people off the road.



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