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Scared sober

Golden Valley High dramatization of a car crash involving classmates aims to bring home the deadly r

Posted: November 6, 2008 6:26 p.m.
Updated: November 7, 2008 4:30 a.m.

Fire crews cooperate to pull out a "crash victim" during Golden Valley High School's Every 15 Minutes event Thursday afternoon.

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It was only a re-enactment, but it felt real to many students at Golden Valley High School.

They walked out to Robert C. Lee Parkway on Thursday to find two wrecked cars strewn with “bloody” bodies.

A deputy stood by dressed in an ominous Grim Reaper costume.

The dramatization was part of “Every 15 Minutes,” a program sponsored by the California Highway Patrol, the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station and the city of Santa Clarita.

Part of the program reenacts a drunk driving crash scene.

It may have all been make believe, but it hit home with the students, said Sal Frias, principal at Golden Valley High School.

“I looked into the audience to see the kids’ faces. I saw emotion so I saw the program working,” he said.

The dramatization started well before the crash scene was set up, said Courtney Carr, Safe School Program coordinator for Golden Valley High. Carr was charged with picking kids to participate in the car wreck scene.

“We tried to grab kids from as many backgrounds and groups as possible to represent a cross section. This could happen to anyone,” she said.

The selected students and their parents met with Carr more than a month ago. The parents of the students who played victims killed in the crash wrote obituaries for their children. Everyone involved was sworn to secrecy.

During morning classes the names of those “killed” in the crash were flashed across classroom television sets along with pictures.

Deputy Wayne Waterman, the Grim Reaper, walked into the classroom of each victim and escorted the student from class. Classmates didn’t see them again until the accident demonstration.

The car crash staged on Robert C. Lee Parkway involved theatrical makeup, twisted metal and a motionless student slumped over the hood of a car.

Firefighter used the Jaws of Life to pluck bodies from the cars and a sheriff’s deputy narrated the events.

Eyes stayed glued to the gory scene and what was meant to look real felt too real for some.

“My good friend was in the car. She looked at me through cracked eyes, and it felt real," student Hayley Duquette said. "I thought about what if my best friend really died."

She snapped pictures for the school newspaper and wiped tears from her eyes at the same time.

Emilee Byers, 16, was “killed” in the car accident. Covered in theatrical makeup, Byers said she felt an obligation to be part of the demonstration. “I feel like I’m an important part of the school because I am in cheer, honor society and am a safe school ambassador,” she said.

Byers said being a school role model means people look up to her, and she hopes her latest actions influence those closest to her.

“I’m the only one of my friends who doesn’t drink or smoke. I hope at the very least people don’t drive after they’ve been drinking,” she said.

Deputy Travis Kelly narrated the event, which ended with six victims “dead” and one person hauled off to jail to face charges.

“They know it’s fake, but it’s grounded in reality. It can really happen any night so it hits home,” he said.


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