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April 7th, 2009 by Temple City Tribune
At 11:15am a 911 call was broadcasted over Temple City High School’s PA system informing all the students that a serious accident involving two vehicles had occurred in front of the school. The senior and junior class headed to Temple City Blvd (which had been shut down between Duarte Rd. and El Camino Ave.) and the underclassmen to the gym for an assembly. The scene on Temple City Blvd was as realistic as it could be.
“It’s so scary” said Ashley Crider, a senior at the high school, “This can really happen, we have to be careful and a lot more aware.” A truck had collided with a sedan; one female student was laying on the asphalt as if she had been ejected from the sedan while the other students were still in the vehicles. Sirens rang through the air as the L.A. County Sheriff Deputies and California Highway Patrol arrived on the scene. Shortly thereafter, a fire truck and engine approached to assist with the scene as did the paramedics. After assessing all the victims, one female is pronounced dead on the scene, while two others sustained minor injuries and one was left critically injured.
The fire department proceeded to use their Jaws of Life tool to remove the critically injured student from the sedan. After the student was removed from the sedan he was placed in an ambulance and taken to the football field where he was then transported via helicopter to Arcadia Methodist Hospital where he was later pronounced dead at 12:18 p.m. in front of his mother. The CHP took the driver of the truck and performed a field sobriety test on him, quickly coming to the conclusion that he was driving under the influence. The driver was then put under arrest and taken to the Sheriff’s station to be booked. The Coroner’s office then arrived to take the female’s body to the morgue to perform an autopsy. The re-enactment included over 15 law enforcement, firefighters, paramedics & coroner’s office personal.
“To actually see it on display… it has a powerful impact on the students,” commented Superintendent Dr. Chelsea Kang-Smith.
The funds to cover this large scale operation were procured from a grant from the Office of Traffic and Safety through the CHP and through support from the City of Temple City as well. Sheriff’s Department Deputy Rick Adams and L.A. County Fire Department Inspector Frederic Stowers, along with Temple City Public Safety Officer Bryan Ariizumi were just a few of those involved in the efforts to coordinate the event.
The program included 22 students who were randomly removed from the classroom by the Sherriff’s ‘Grim Reaper’. It was announced every time someone was removed how they had died. Once the students were taken from the room they were giving an Every 15 Minutes t-shirt to wear and sent back to class as the “walking dead”. They were not allowed to interact at all with the rest of the student body. On campus there was a grave site along with a memory wall that included the obituaries that their parents had written for them. All “victims” were sent to a hotel where they wrote letters to their parents and discussed the events that had happened earlier. The “victims” were not reunited with their parents till the next day at an assembly.
The high school film class, Dragon Flicks, filmed all the events that had happened the previous day and made a video montage. At the assembly there was a speaker by the name of Terri Knowlton. She had spoken previously to the underclassmen, victims and parents the day before. Terri was the mother of Alexandria Robins who had previously gone through the program four years ago. Her daughter was one of the “victims”. Alexandria died on October 15, 2007 at 5:10 a.m. on the 5 Freeway heading down to San Diego with a few of her girlfriends.
The driver had been drinking and lost control of the car. Alexandria was not wearing her seat belt and was ejected from the vehicle and died instantly. As Terri was telling the story many students became very emotional, it seemed to hit home as some of the students had known of Alexandria. Three of the students read their letters to their parents out loud and two parents read theirs as well. All were overcome by emotion as they struggled to get the words out. Finally the parents were reunited with their children.
“It’s an eye opener to what can really happen. Nothing can really prepare you for a situation like this,” stated Kim Sickles a parent of one of the “victims”.
The “Every 15-Minutes” Program is designed to provide young adults with a realistic glimpse into the consequences of drunk driving and the damaging effects of alcohol related traffic collisions. With Spring Break and Prom just around the corner, opening the eyes to teenagers on the realities of what could happen if they choose to drink and drive.