Drill teaches teens dangers of impaired driving raiser
A mock car accident at Emery High involving a drunk driver and a fatality was acted out in the parking lot on April 7. The students at Emery High were brought out to watch the drill as two cars had collided at a stop sign. The driver of the vehicle hit was ejected from the van and came through the windshield falling onto the hood of the gray car that hit her and she was fatally injured.
The deputies from the Emery County Sheriff's Office arrived at the scene as well as the Utah Highway Patrol. The local fire departments were notified and arrived on scene where they extricated the victims from the van. One passenger was seriously injured and life flight was notified and flew in and they landed on the softball field and the injured party was transported.
The program was called "Every 15 Minutes" and involved the partnership of the Governing Youth Council, Emery High, Emery County Sheriff's Office and the Castleview Hospital. The program was named because every 15 minutes across the United States there is an impaired driver caused or related death. Every five minutes an impaired driver causes an injury.
The EMTs took care of all the victims in the accident. The UHP performed field sobriety tests on the driver of the gray car which he failed.
After the mock car accident the students returned to class. As the day progressed, every 15 minutes a student was taken out of class to represent the one life lost every 15 minutes. An assembly took place at the school later that day and the "dead" students all sat together on the stage. The stage was set for the trial of the mock defendant Clay Collard who was the driver of the gray car. Judge Steven Stream participated along with defense attorney, David Allred and Michael Olsen, prosecutor for the state. Cpl. Shawn Alton was called as a witness. He described the condition of the defendant and the field sobriety test he was given. The defendant was given a breath alcohol test when he arrived at the sheriff's office after the accident and he tested .145, the legal limit in Utah is .08.
Judge Stream reminded the students of the seriousness of a crime of this nature. It can change lives forever with just one bad decision. He reminded the students that going to court is very serious.
Olsen said the defendant operated the vehicle in a negligent manner and should be found guilty. The defense attorney Allred said the field sobriety results should be thrown out because the defendant was injured at the time the test was administered. The witness didn't really see what happened so the defendant should be found not guilty.
Judge Stream had the final say in the matter, saying the breath alcohol test proved the driver was impaired and therefore guilty of criminal vehicular homicide. He sentenced the defendant to serve 0-5 in the Utah State Prison.
At this point in the program, Steven Furner from Fausett Mortuary read the obituary of the "deceased student" Brinne Dawes. She was very active in high school and fun loving. She was active in clubs and drama, she participated in FCCLA, GYC, swim team, speech and debate and was active in church. She found a great joy in entertaining others.
Marqui Moss read a letter from Brinne's parents to the school. Brinne was a hard working girl. She had many talents and had a lot of friends. Life can change so quickly with the impulsive act of another person. An accident of this type can happen to anyone. We each make choices each day. Brinne won't be here to graduate, attend college; those dreams have been postponed. The letter went on to say the burden the driver of the car will have to bear will be hard, the knowledge that your actions killed someone will be hard to take.
Emery County Sheriff Greg Funk introduced the next speakers. He said they have experienced the loss of a child through an impaired driver. They know first hand the heart ache and pain felt at that time. The day was July 22, 2006. The child was Jedediah Murray from Huntington, he was only 5 years old. His parents Terry and Barbara Murray spoke to the students.
Terry Murray encouraged the students to never take that first drink or drug. He told the audience about his son, 5 year old Jeddy. Jeddy loved the garden, he loved the string beans they had for dinner. He told how he had gotten after Jeddy for stepping on the plants in the garden the night before he was hit by a truck, "The next day, I found out how fragile life can be. For a 5 year old boy to be there one day and the next day he's not. I was at a friends house in Elmo that night working on a car. When I had a phone call from Rob Baker, he said come home your son's been run over. My 3 year old son knew that Jeddy was dead and not coming back. He saw Jeddy's spirit leave his body. He saw many things that day that no one else saw."
Murray said Sgt. Gayle Jensen was on duty at the time of the accident. The person who hit little Jeddy, smelled of alcohol. "We went to the hospital. I couldn't stand to see his broken body. Jeddy was flown to Primary Children's Hospital. His brain was hanging out of his head. The doctor said he was dead the second he hit the ground. His brain died, his body lived on for one more day. This has been a traumatic experience. We have had to lean on the Lord and on our faith. My older son kept asking why? why did this have to happen to Jeddy. The doctor's said they were going to unplug the machines from Jeddy. If he could breath on his own, he would live. But, he would be a vegetable. This was the end of his young life. They pulled the plug and Jeddy passed away," said Terry.
Terry read some of Jedediah's obituary, it said, "Jedediah's true character was expressed and felt by the literal meaning of his given name. Jedediah in Hebrew means friend to God. Koalani in Hawaiian means Heavenly Warrior. Jedediah's greatest accomplishments have been to serve his Father in Heaven through the sharing of his many talents. Jedediah enjoyed family service, art, sports, reading and intelligent conversation and playing with friends."
Terry described his son as having a sense of humor.
The man who ran over Jeddy is now serving time in prison because he was driving while intoxicated.
Terry says he still sees Jeddy now in his dreams and hears his footsteps in the hall. Terry says he doesn't hold anything against the man who ran over his son. He encouraged the students again to avoid drugs and alcohol, then they will never have to go through the things the drunk driver who killed Jeddy will have to, the driver was sentenced to five years in prison for vehicular manslaughter.
Barbara told the students it's hard to talk of personal experiences, but she thinks it will be worth it if it helps someone think before they drive while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. She knows the person who took the life of her son has some deep rooted problems. She has done research into the brain and how it reacts when exposed to drugs and alcohol and also brain injuries and how they can change behavior. "Because this driver was under the influence, he didn't even know he had hit someone. His own son was in the back of the truck and yelled through the open window, Dad you ran over a boy so the driver returned to the accident. What makes us participate in some things that are hurtful. That young man didn't mean to take someone's life, but he used most of his paycheck on drugs and alcohol that weekend. It was the Saturday of the Cleveland celebration and we had attended that, and so had this young man. We were going to take our family to the lake that night; but instead tragedy struck that night for everyone."
Barbara said there is help out there for people with brain injuries and drug and alcohol problems. Seek help if you are addicted, before a tragedy strikes. Be responsible she advised. "We are all responsible for our own actions. You are our future, we are all linked together. We are all as a big family and sometimes we forget how to take care of each other. Sometimes we need a little help. The brain controls the body.
"There are people who are struggling. You are the caregivers of tomorrow, you will be the future. Look out for each another," said Barbara.
The program concluded with Lorie Huntington from the Governing Youth Council giving some statistics of young drivers. She said three people under age 21 die each day from alcohol related accidents. There are 100,000 deaths annually that are alcohol related and in one half of all traffic accidents, alcohol is involved.