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‘Every 15 Minutes’ drill offers sobering warning to F-M students

Fayetteville-Manlius High School students recently had a front-row glimpse into the potentially dangerous consequences of driving while impaired.

On April 19, local police, fire and emergency first response departments staged a motor vehicle accident at F-M High School as part of the national program “Every 15 Minutes.” The simulated event illustrates the impacts impaired and distracted driving can have on friends, families and the community.

“Our goal is to educate students,” Manlius Fire Department Lieutenant Chris Halliday said. “We want to demonstrate the catastrophic consequences that can occur if students choose to drink and drive.”

“Every 15 Minutes” is based on a national model that began in the 1990s when statistics showed that someone died in an alcohol-related crash every 15 minutes.

The event kicked off at F-M Thursday morning when every 15 minutes a student was removed from class by a police officer, firefighter and school representative. Transformed into members of “the walking dead,” the students who were chosen to represent accident victims later returned to class wearing white face makeup and a black t-shirt bearing the “Every 15 Minutes” logo. The more than 50 victims could no longer speak or interact with their peers for the remainder of the school day.

The mock accident scene – which was carried out by members of the Fayetteville and Manlius fire departments and the Manlius Police Department in the school’s student parking lot – took place during the afternoon in front of junior and senior class students.

The scene began when “walking dead” members removed a tarp to reveal two mangled vehicles with crumpled fenders and blood-smeared windshields, shards of broken glass and a lifeless body.

Moments later, emergency responders arrived and took control of the simulated scene. Senior Saara Vahtola, one of the vehicle’s drivers, was taken into police custody after failing a sobriety test. The Jaws of Life – a rescue apparatus used by responders to pry vehicle wreckage apart – helped to extricate trapped student-passengers Chris Perry, Aidan Welling, Martha Welker and Trevor Fallon.

With an emergency helicopter swirling overhead, medical responders prepared one critically injured victim for airlift transport while declaring another passenger – a role played by junior Sarah Speck – dead on arrival, or DOA. The deceased victim’s mother, Ms. Marissa Mims, was escorted onto the scene so she could positively identify her daughter’s body.

Once the scene concluded, juniors and seniors re-entered school. A camera crew continued to film the program’s student-participants at the hospital, police station and funeral home. A video capturing the day’s events was shown to students during an assembly held the next day.