By Jennifer Gallus
LESTER PRAIRIE, MN The mock accident in Lester Prairie Thursday was fake, but the reactions to a two-vehicle crash involving high school peers were visibly real.
Lester Prairie High School students were the targeted audience for life lessons in seat belt use and impaired driving provided by the Lester Prairie Police Department, student actors, wrecked cars, and numerous rescue personnel.
Students listened to a reenactment of a likely conversation that took place inside one of the vehicles before it crashed into the other.
The scene then played out in as close to real time as possible. From the Lester Prairie Police arriving on scene, to the Lester Prairie Fire Department, and the Winsted Police Department, to finally the paramedics, which seemed like an eternity for these suffering mock victims.
LPHS National Honor Society students were the role players/victims for the mock crash. Those students included Tyler Vollrath, Riika Quernemoen, Brianna Briggs, Nicole Condon, and Ana Hartwig.
Dave Olson, paramedic for Ridgeview Medical Center, applied moulage to the students before the program to make their fake wounds look extremely realistic.
An added and unintentional twist to the scenario arose when mock victim Condon arrived at the scene to play her part and found her own vehicle she had totalled last November in a single-vehicle crash.
It was a “complete coincidence” that the vehicle was used for the mock crash, explained State Patrol Sergeant Jacki Sticha, who was the narrator during the staged crash.
Last November, Condon was on the way to a job interview. She was buckled up, but talking on her cell phone while attempting to roll up the passenger-side window.
She veered off the road, panicked, over-corrected, and rolled the vehicle one-and-a-half times.
“I was very, very stupid,” Condon said.
“The only thing that saved her was her seat belt,” Condon’s mother Stacy said.
“I loved this car,” Condon said as she looked at it before the program began. “It was my favorite.”
During the mock crash program, the pretend victims exchanged dialog, let out screams of pain, sorrow, and apologies.
The driver who caused the crash was played by Quernemoen whose part included being an under-the-influence driver.
Her passenger in the front seat was Condon, who played the part of a deceased, ejected victim. Quernemoen’s back-seat passenger was Briggs, who had major cuts to her abdomen with pretend exposed intestines.
The second vehicle, which was hit by Quernemoen, was driven by Vollrath with Hartwig as his passenger.
Both drivers were able to walk and move about after the mock crash.
Quernemoen paced frantically while not being able to help anyone on scene, and kept apologizing to her pretend dead friend.
After Lester Prairie Police Department Officer Brenda Conzet arrived on scene, and concluded her triage work after the paramedics took over, Conzet began administering field sobriety testing to Quernemoen.
After Quernemoen acted the part of failed field sobriety, she was handcuffed and placed in the back of Conzet’s squad.
Briggs was pulled out of the back of Quernemoen’s pretend vehicle by Lester Prairie firefighters with the assistance of the Jaws of Life.
After all of the mock victims were taken away by ambulance, Condon remained on the hood of Quernemoen’s vehicle awaiting the arrival of the medical examiner to pronounce her dead.
The high school students’ faces were sullen as pictures were taken by the state patrol and the medical examiner of their pretend dead peer.
To drive in the finality that can happen in the blink of an eye because of poor choices, a hearse arrived at the scene.
Students watched as mock victim Condon was placed in a real body bag and loaded into the back of the hearse.
At the conclusion of the program, Lester Prairie Police Officer Mark Thiry, as well as Sticha, gave the students some final thoughts and asked that they make good decisions.
The student actors also addressed their fellow students, and explained how it felt to be victims.
Many echoed the same sentiments that even though it was a fake scene it felt real. It scared them, it was a reality check, and they hope that no one has to go through it for real.
“There are so many distractions in a car, from music, to passengers and cell phones, that are all contributing factors to crashes,” Thiry said.