By Sally Morrow Gomez
Under a cloudy sky last Wednesday, Fire Department Captain Terry Magelsson stood in the Grandview High School parking lot, where a realistic reconstruction of a tragic car accident set the scene for what he hoped would be a dramatic lesson for the school’s juniors and seniors:
“You are about to be witnesses to a deadly accident...an accident that happens every 8 minutes in our country,” he said.
“The presentation you are about to see will be presented as realistic as possible. It will be presented in real time.
“There will be moments of anxiety, pain, loss and sadness.
“The rescue efforts will be strenuous and at times, very loud. Take note of everything you see and hear.
“And make a commitment today of what you will do personally to ensure that you and your friends will never have to face a day like this one.”
Complete with bloodied student actors from the theatre department, emergency vehicles, and a Lifeflight helicopter, the “Tragedy in Grandview” docudrama event was staged by the Grandview Fire and Police Departments and McGilley George Funeral Home to demonstrate the consequences of dangerous driving. Grandview High School Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) hosted the event, which is organized every two years.
Smoke poured from the two crashed cars (provided by Lazer Tow) and faint cries could be heard from injured occupants while Captain Magelsson explained what had occurred.
“A split second of inattention, intoxication, overreaction, lack of seatbelts and the result is this…a two-car head-on collision. When these cars struck, their combined speed was the equivalent of hitting a concrete wall at 120mph. For some of the victims, choking on smoke, gasoline fumes, blood and teeth will mean death within 4 minutes. For others, death was immediate. And ironically, some will walk away without a scratch. There’s never any way to predict how the outcomes will be…but one fact remains. Use seatbelts. They work. You are 90 times more likely to die if you get ejected from a vehicle.”
Police officers and firefighters responded to the scene, pulling the young injured occupants from the two cars and loading them into ambulances. Officer Scott Evans, the first to arrive at the mock crash scene, performed a sobriety test on the intoxicated driver (played by GHS actor Tad Halstead) and arrested him.
Halstead said afterward, "Once I got out of the car, it was so real I started crying. I think it will be very effective."
While watching the mock crash unfold, some students shed tears and embraced one other. After the event, student Larry Carter said, "I was shocked." Senior Marvell Saffold added, "I think this was an eye opener for a lot of people."
On average, Grandview Police respond to two fatal car accidents each year, according to officer Scott Evans. Grandview Assistant Fire Chief Jim Toone said that accidents increase in the spring and summer.
"With prom and graduation coming up, we want to show a vivid display of how bad these accidents can be, for them to see the real consequences," he said.
Following the re-inactment, students filed past the scene for a closer look then headed to an assembly where organizers spoke about organ donation, avoiding phone use while driving and wearing a seatbelt.
Captain Magelsson left a parting message for the teens:
“Thank you for your attention. It is our sincere hope that we never meet you like this for real.”