PCHS seniors warned ‘Don’t drink and drive’
Ryan Summerlin May 23, 2014
Thursday morning, Park City High School seniors faced the reality of poor decisions during the school’s annual "docudrama." The event at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on Monitor Drive is a reenactment of a serious car accident resulting from four teenagers drinking and driving and comes at a time in the seniors’ lives filled with celebrations that could lead to a real, similar event.
"It’s prom season and graduation, so we think it is time to talk to our seniors about those celebrations and to be thinking about making good decisions and choices," said Samantha Walsh, the high school’s intervention counselor. "We are hoping our students will watch this and be a good influence on each other versus influencing each other to make bad decisions."
The reenactment portrayed the story of four seniors Mateja Lund, Bridger Bush, Mark Benson and Annabelle Dunn- who made the decision to allow a friend that had been drinking to take the wheel. They crashed into a woman and her friends who were driving home from the movies on S.R. 224. The woman went on to suffer permanent damage to her right leg and arm. Lund, playing the part of one of the seniors, died at the scene of the accident.
An Air Med helicopter and an ambulance took the victims of the car crash to safety while a police officer performed a sobriety test on the teen driver. He was arrested, and Lund, in her role as a victim, was taken from the scene in a hearse.
"They just briefed us beforehand and told us what we would be doing and where we would be sitting and things like that," Lund said. "Other than that, there was really no practice, which I think really influenced making it feel that much more real. It was not rehearsed at all, so it was just in the moment."
Principal Bob O’Connor has been involved in the production for 15 years, and he said the reaction to the intense scene always has the same effect on students.
"Any time you get a class this size, a little over 300 students, to be totally silent while watching something as important as this means something," he said. "It captured their attention, and I think they all heard the message loud and clear."
The students then walked over to the Eccles Center to hear a police officer, emergency medical technician and a trauma surgeon talk about real-life drunk-driving accidents that have affected them personally.
School resource officer Corey Allinson told students about a drunk driver he arrested in St. George in 2008. The man took a left turn into an Albertson’s parking lot driving right into a man on a motorcycle who died instantly. The drunk driver was charged with not only driving under the influence but with negligent homicide. He was sentenced to jail.
"It is hard to watch this kind of stuff, because we deal with it too often," he said. "Please do not make me or any of my partners attend yours or your friend’s funeral or be the one to have to knock on your door and tell your family that you are not coming home."
Ram Nirula, the head of trauma surgery at the University of Utah Medical Center, recounted the story of a family that was hit by a driver who was high on methamphetamines and marijuana on Christmas Eve in 2011. The mother was critically injured, and her one and a half year old son was taken off life support and died in her arms.
"Please think about this story before you do anything that could jeopardize you, your family or your friends," he said.
Bush, Benson and Dunn spoke about Lund and how they regretted the night’s events. Lund’s mother then gave a eulogy for her daughter while a memorial video played on a screen on stage as the presentation concluded.
"I would never drink and drive in the first place, but [today] made it even more clear to me that if someone was clearly incapable of driving, I would be the one to step up and tell them, ‘You cannot do this,’" Lund said. "It was a very scary experience and very realistic and definitely influenced me in the sense that I would never let anything like that happen to somebody that I knew or in any situation where I could stop, I would be sure to."
Walsh said she helped prepare students beforehand to let them know they would be witnessing a reenactment of a serious car crash and that it is normal to have a strong emotional response. She was also available for students to talk to after the presentation if they had any questions or felt very emotionally affected by the reenactment.
"We have had students involved in a variety of car accidents, and have had kids charged with driving under the influence of illicit drugs or alcohol and charged with DUIs as high school students," she said. "I am hoping they get the message to make good, healthy decisions to protect their futures and the things they care about."
She added that the high school now offers a "Prime for Life" program that aims to educate young people about making low-risk versus high-risk decisions, specifically in relation to drinking and driving and drug use. It is a four-week, 12-hour class that any student or their parent can sign them up for.
Allinson wished the class of 2014 good luck as they approach graduation and hoped they would remember the presentation and the negative affect driving under the influence can have on their lives.
"Your future is in your hands, so enjoy it, have fun and make good decisions," he said. "I leave this story with you out of respect. Good luck."