Mock crash has real effect on students

Wednesday, September 28, 2005
Serious injury: Purdy Police Chief Jackie Lowe checks for a pulse on an obviously injured Christie Gray during last Thursday's docudrama presentation at Purdy High School. The event was sponsored by the Purdy FCCLA Chapter. Democrat Photo

Anyone driving past Purdy High School last Thursday afternoon may have been in for a shock when they saw a two-car crash at the entrance of the school driveway.

A pair of fire trucks, police cars, two ambulances, a medical helicopter and the coroner's hearse converged on the scene to assist with a docudrama presentation planned by the school's FCCLA Chapter. This is the third time Myra McGee and her students have orchestrated a staged crash, which is intended to send a strong message to high school students about drinking and driving.

Student participants in the crash included Austin Tate, the alleged drunk driver; Nick Mercer, a passenger in Tate's vehicle who was thrown from the car and died; Erica Burns, the driver of the second vehicle; Hannah Sperandio, a passenger in the Burns' vehicle who suffered moderate injuries in the crash; and Christie Gray, another passenger in the Burns' vehicle

Before the drama unfolded, students were led to the scene by their teachers and allowed to view the two vehicles where Mercer lay "lifeless" on the pavement and Gray's bloodied body protruded through the shattered windshield.

Pam Holt, from St. John's trauma prevention unit who provided the make-up, did a superb job of making the students' injuries appear life-like. Several students gasped and clutched each other's hands as they walked around the two cars.

Emergency personnel responded to the mock crash site and worked to extricate three students from one of the cars using the Jaws of Life. The coroner also responded and took one of the passengers away in a body bag, while the driver of one of the vehicles was escorted from the scene in the back of a Patrol car after failing a field sobriety test.

Although the crash was staged, the response of emergency personnel and the acting of the students who participated in the drama was very realistic.

Following the docudrama, "crash" participants visited with different classes of students to discuss what those watching the presentation gained from the portrayal and how it affected the students who presented it.

"This was really good for me," said Gray, one of the crash victims. "I didn't realize how much this would affect me, so talking about the experience really helped me, and I hope, other students."

Gray said she hoped the docudrama made a lasting impression.

"We did it to make a difference and so students realize that the decisions they make will affect them for the rest of their lives, and not only them, but the people around them," Gray said.

Agencies and individuals who assisted with Purdy's docudrama included: Holt; Purdy Police Chief Jackie Lowe; the City of Purdy; Purdy Police Chief Mike Redshaw; Purdy and Wheaton volunteer firefighters; Barry County Coroner Skip White; Jerry Thomas of Ed Jones Wrecker; Missouri State Highway Patrol Trooper Danny Boyd; and St. John's Hospital's medical helicopter.

"We also want to thank the parents of the students who participated," said McGee.

Purdy FCCLA students will use the docudrama to compete in STAR Events competition.

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