“There’s so much blood,” screams Lassen High School senior Holly Fortin as she makes a 911 call.
On Monday, April 24, a twocar collision sprawled on Arnold Field told the story of a party gone wrong, and a driver who should’ve passed the keys to a sober friend.
Lassen High School students sat in the bleachers watching their peers get peeled out of mangled vehicles as a part of the Every 15 Minutes program, which educates youth about the dangers and consequences of driving under the influence.
“I think it basically shows them the repercussions from driving impaired, whether it be alcohol or drugs,” said California Highway Patrol Public Information Officer Kristen Wilburn. Every four years at Lassen High School, students have the ability to participate in or watch the Every 15 Minutes Program from CHP.
“The Every 15 Minutes Program offers real-life experience without the reallife risks. This emotionally charged program, entitled Every 15 Minutes, is an event designed to dramatically instill teenagers with the potentially dangerous consequences of drinking alcohol and texting while driving. This powerful program will challenge students to think about drinking, texting while driving, personal safety and the responsibility of making mature decisions when lives are involved,” read the Every 15 Minutes website.
Participants either were a part of the simulation, or the Grim Reaper pulled them out of class every 15 minutes, simulating the death that occurs as a result of impaired driving every 15 minutes.
The Monday scene unfolded with Fortin making the 911 call, saying she didn’t think her friend was breathing. Two vehicles were placed head to head — a body sprawled on the hood, another on the ground. The driver of the vehicle at fault, student Chad Arnold, paced around the scene, checking on his friends. Officers soon arrive, quickly followed by paramedics and the wounded are tended to. The severely injured students are taken away by participating medical helicopters.
As a result of the mock crash, students Gabi Geoia and Korbin Drake died; a staged funeral was held for the pair the following day, featuring guest speakers.
After the crash scene, participating students spent the night away from home at the Susanville Assembly of God. While there, they wrote letters to parents as if they died. Simultaneously, the parents of participants met for an evening meeting and wrote letters to their children as if they had died.
The following day Tuesday, April 25, students and parents filled the gym to watch a film produced of the prior day’s events, and guest speakers addressed the crowd as Geoia and Drake lay in their coffins.
One of the speakers for the event, a California Correctional Center inmate, described an incident where he got behind the wheel of his vehicle drunk. The scream of his brother’s girlfriend, he said, is something he’ll never forget.
“It’s an act that only causes destruction and death … and that’s something I’ve seen first hand,” the inmate said of driving impaired. “I don’t want to see anybody else in that situation. Especially from Lassen,” he continued.
Also addressing the crowd, former student Jordayne Miller shared how drunk driving has affected her. Six weeks before she was born, Miller lost her father in an accident. She told the crowd that most of them have been blessed to have both a mom and a dad growing up.
“That opportunity was taken from me in a matter of seconds,” she said, continuing that she’ll never get to experience many of the things girls should be able to, like the father daughter dance at her wedding. “Those moments are so precious.” CHP Captain Joe Micheletti concluded the sobering assembly.
According to Micheletti, last year 32 people died on Lassen and Plumas county highways due to bad choices last year.
He also addressed the crowd, asking if they had made the choice on how they’re going to respond in a situation when they, or someone they know, is driving impaired.
The Every 15 Minutes Program visits multiple schools in the county and throughout the state.