Mock wreck staged to alert prom goers
Clif Knight, Hartselle Enquirer
Hartselle firefighters and other rapid responders staged a mock traffic accident complete with two crumpled cars and the blood-splattered bodies of five teenage victims at J. P. Cain Stadium on March 28.
The object of the exercise was to give Hartselle High School students a clear picture of what can happen when young drivers mix alcohol with a speeding automobile. The timing was in keeping with the school's junior-senior prom on March 30.
The student body, which was divided into four groups of about 200 each, watched silently from the stands as firefighters rushed to the wrecked cars and worked frantically to reach the occupants. Following their lead were ambulance service attendants and EMTs who examined the victims, administered emergency first aid and prepared them for transport to hospitals.
The coroner arrived next. He pulled a white sheet from a passenger in one of the cars and found no sign of life. Meanwhile, police officers conducted an investigation to determine the cause of the accident.
A mother of one of the victims happened upon the scene and became frantic, afraid it was her child who had been killed.
One of the victims was transported to Huntsville Hospital by Air Evac Lifeteam, two others were taken to Hartselle Medical Center's ER by LifeCare and County EMS and the only one who was not injured was placed in a patrol car and taken to the police station for booking on a DUI charge.
The most gut-wrenching part of the picture was yet to come. Just as onlookers were refocusing their attention to a return to class, a white hearse entered the stadium. It moved slowly toward the wrecked cars and came to a stop a few feet away.
Two men dressed in blue suits stepped out in unison. They removed a stretcher from the rear of the hearse and positioned it next to the wreckage. They placed the body of the deceased on the stretcher, retraced their steps to the hearse and loaded the body inside.
As the hearse pulled away, students stood and starting making their way out of the stands. Some of them could be seen wiping tears from their eyes. Reality had struck home. They sensed what it would be like to lose one of their own in a tragic highway accident.
"I want to thank the board of education and school administrators for allowing us to do this," Hartselle Fire Chief Steve Shelton said. "And I appreciate the outstanding support we had from our firefighters, police officers, ambulance service personnel, corner, funeral homes, Air Evac Lifeteam and Eddie's Wrecker Service.
"If what we've done here today can prevent a single injury or death, it was worth it."
The Rest of the Story:
For the third year in a row there were no disturbances, arrests or accidents connected with the prom, according to Hartselle Police Chief Ron Puckett.
"We had two uniformed officers at the dance and several others conducting traffic checks in the vicinity of the civic enter from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m.," he pointed out. The kids knew we were there for their protection. While our officers made five arrests and issued several citations at the checkpoints, none of them involved prom goers."
"This speaks well for the school administration, students, parents and community," he added.