Drunk-driving reality hits
Ronan High School students head-on
looks on as Ronan High School sophomore Marley Tanner lays “dead” on
the pavement while senior Abby Luke hangs lifeless out a window after a
mock head-on collision involving drunk drivers on Thursday afternoon at
the Ronan High School parking lot. (Lailani Upham photo)
RONAN — Every 15 minutes somebody
is killed by a drunk driver, according to Lake County Sheriff Deputy
Ronan High School demonstrated the disturbing fact
last Thursday with a mock accident scene and memorial service for 19
“dead” students. The scene of the head-on collision was directly in the
middle of the high school parking lot that caught the attention of
drivers passing by to take a moment to gander at the commotion.
The accident scene is what is called a Ghost-out
organized by Deputy Gillhouse. The reenactment happens every four years
at Ronan High School, according to Gillhouse.
and staff observe emergency workers remove a car roof then carefully
extract students “injured” bodies from a mock head on collision during
the Ronan High School Ghost Out. (Lailani Upham photo)
The 19 students who played the role of
“deceased” were in their respected classes when received a tap on the
shoulder to turn and face the Grim Reaper, the Angel of Death.
After a student was tapped they were pulled from
the class where they received a quick “Hollywood” style make-up job of
gashes and wounds. The students were then returned to class as a “dead”
victim of a drunken-driving accident. They were no longer allowed to
speak or interact with their classmates the rest of the day. “It was
pretty intense,” said Alice Van Gunten, a Junior at Ronan about the
experience playing a victim. “It’s a life-changing experience to not
drink and drive,” Van Gunten added.
Shelby Fisher is transported from vehicle to ambulance after sustaining
a severe head injury. Shelby “dies” shortly after arriving inside the
ambulance. She is escorted out by the Grim Reaper and somberly grazes
the scene. (Lailani Upham photo)
Kirk Bartel, a paramedic with Ronan
Ambulance, shared with the students how he sees the tragedy of
accidents on the scene, and told the students of a close to home
incident that happened a few years back involving a relative. He told
the students about the night he was called out to a scene to find his
dad there first. “It was this time of year,” he said. “I get to the
scene, and my dad is there - he asked me, ‘Do you know what kind of car
your cousin drives?’” Bartel explains. Bartel says he thinks of the car
model and instantly looks over to see it is his cousin’s car, “Sure
enough it was his, and I went in to a panic. He’s lifeless, laying face
down. I thought it was a dream,” he added.
Bartel told the students he shares his story with
them in hopes to make them think about their choices. “We want to teach
and show you what can happen if you drink and drive,” he said.
“Remember there is somebody that wants to see you the next day,” he
pleaded with the students.
The dim lit gymnasium was still and silent, as
stories of real-life incidents were shed upon to the student body, by
law enforcement officials and emergency responders.
CSKT police officer, Don Bell shared a story of
what he believed was the worst accident he witnessed. It involved a
drunken driver involving three vehicles.
The victims were a 34-year-old mother and her
eight-year-old son, dead on the scene.
“When you put an eight-year-old in a body bag -
that’s real,” he said. The drunk driver walked away with no injuries.
Bell urged the students to take the demonstration
serious, “Soak this in, because it is real,” he said.
High School students stand in front of the entire school body and staff
during a “memorial” that was held in their honor after being “killed”
in accidents involving drunk drivers. (Lailani Upham photo)
After the memorial service
students followed the law enforcement officials to the parking lot to
find a head-on collision of a Chevy Astro van and a saab vehicle loaded
with students severely injured. On the pavement, one body had flown
through the window - dead. One girl hanging lifeless out a broken van
One student said as she watched the commotion of
emergency responders and police officials on the scene that it felt
realistic and the feeling was “very sad.” Another student responded
that she never wanted to drink or drive, while another stated she never
wanted to drink after witnessing the Ghost-Out.
Weston Kiehn, a Senior, who was a “drunk driver”
in one of the vehicles said that the experience of it all was, “very
uncomfortable.” He said he hopes the message from this experience the
students witness, is to not drink and drive.
March 20 was prom night for both Ronan and Polson
High School. No under age DUI’s were issued from Lake County Sheriff’s
department or from CSKT Tribal Police Department.