Anthony Skeens, The Triplicate

During 'Every 15 Minutes' event at DNHS, some became the 'living dead'

Del Norte High School upperclassmen saw first-hand what could happen if students got behind the wheel after drinking during this week's "Every 15 Minutes" event.

The moniker is based on a statistical estimate that, on average, someone dies in a drunk driving accident every 15 minutes.

Two wrecked cars - donated by California Auto Image - were placed at the intersection of Washington Boulevard and El Dorado Street to create a mock crash scene after three students riding in a car turning left into the school's campus are broadsided by a student drunk driver who ran a red light, said California Highway Patrol officer Brandy Gonzalez, the event's coordinator.

Students sitting in bleachers placed next to the crash site and others standing around got to see first hand the drama that unfolds at a major crash site.

Crescent City Volunteer Fire Department and Crescent Fire Protection District personnel arrived and used the "jaws of life" device to cut open both cars and extract the wounded.

A Mercy Life helicopter landed on Washington Boulevard near the wreck to fly an injured student to Sutter Coast Hospital. California Highway Patrol Officers arrived to arrest the drunk driver. Del Norte Ambulance transported another injured student.

Even a Wier's Mortuary hearse was on hand, to immediately drive away the corpse of a student who died at the scene.

"It was very great to see the different organizations in the community come together," said Gonzalez. "And they all volunteer."

The event is funded by a $9,999 grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety, but a majority of the event is built upon local contributions and volunteer time, including all of the agencies and their equipment, Gonzalez said.

The crash is just part of the two-day event that involves a student assembly playing a video of the crash scene, produced by the County's IT Department, and a speech by a man who lost both his legs and an arm in an actual drunk driving accident.

The "Living Dead" played a grim role. They included 15 students, pulled from class by the grim reaper and made up to look like zombies before returning in a silent, nonactive state.

The students involved in the accident had a sleepover at the Crescent City Fire Hall where they were kept from their families for 24 hours and corresponded with them through letters.

"It just makes me realize you should be more careful," said junior Angeline Vang. "You shuldn't be driving around with just anybody. I never actually thought about it and when you see it, it's much more dangerous than you think it is."

The event is also a valuable tool for first responder training, said Crescent Fire Capt. Dana Reno, who was tasked with coordinating the accident scene.

"The importance of the whole program is to educate the younger generations coming up about the hazards of drinking and driving," said Reno.

The event was made possible by donations and volunteers from the California Highway Patrol, Del Norte Unified School District, Crescent City Volunteer Fire Department, Crescent Fire Protection District, Del Norte Sheriff's Office, Sheriff's Explorers, Crescent City Police Department, Friday Night Live, Caltrans, Rotary Club, Sutter Coast Hospital, Mercy Life, Del Norte Ambulance, California Auto Image, Wier's Mortuary, the localU.S. Army recruiting office, the OTS, Bicoastal Media, former sheriff's Deputy Melanie Barry, and Holly Meyer-Zlokovich and Silvia Ortega from the county's IT department.

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