A docudrama held on the Exeter R-VI School District campus on April 27 showed many students how an alcohol-related automobile crash could change their lives.
On Friday, Exeter High School students filed out of the school to find five of their classmates, Ashley Porter, Tyler Henderson, Josh Rob-bins, Alisha Scott and John Malicoat, in or around an automobile, which served as the central point of the docudrama.
As the students examined their classmates, the wrecked vehicle and the empty beer cans cluttering the area around the car, reactions varied from shock to amusement.
"That's my brother," Jennifer Malicoat said as she motioned to a student on the ground a few yards from the wrecked car.
After all the students had a chance to view the scene up close, the students were escorted a few feet away from the car. The docudrama began as Exeter High School senior Melody Hodge tore from the crowd of students and rushed to the car.
"Ashley, what have you done?" Hodge screamed at Porter who woke up behind the wheel of the car, pushed open her door and stumbled out onto the grass. "Ashley, were you driving?" Hodge screamed at her. "You were drinking. You shouldn't have been driving."
Porter looked into the car to find two of her friends trapped in the vehicle and two of her friends missing. She began to call out for her missing classmates.
As the docudrama unfolded, students watched emergency medical personnel remove Henderson and Robbins from the crashed vehicle and load them into ambulances. John Malicoat was transported to a waiting helicopter and airlifted from the scene.
Scott, who was pronounced dead at the scene by Barry County Coroner Skip White, was placed in a black body bag that was loaded into a hearse. Porter was handcuffed and taken away in a Missouri State Highway Patrol vehicle.
The drama ended as all emergency response teams left the scene of the mock accident. There was no more joking or even talking as teachers escorted the students to the Exeter gym for a brief assembly.
"The thing about the docudrama that really impacted me was how the students reacted,"?said Amy Cole, Exeter counselor. "When they came out a lot of them were chatting and laughing and didn't take it seriously.
"I saw a change in the students when Ashley's name came over the police radio speakers,"?said Cole. "At that point they realized that everything they had ever done could come to light."
Cole, who has been working in education for eight years, has lost two students to automobile accidents. Cole has also seen other students injured in vehicle crashes.
"I really saw how it impacted the students when it got rolling," said Cole. "Those students knew this girl was going to pay for what she'd done. She is 18 years old, and everything has changed for her in a split second. I hope this helped these students know how life can change because of the choices they make."
"This was not the real thing, but it is was very similar to what we go through in our daily experiences when we work these car crashes,"?said Bill Boles, of Cox Emergency Medical Services.
During the assembly, Boles asked the students to raise their hands if they had ever rode in an automobile without wearing a seat belt. Around one-third of the student body raised their hands.
"It's interesting to see what an automobile can do to a human body," said Boles. "The ones that have the biggest impact on me are the ones who are dead and just don't know it yet.
"The ones that are beyond saving, we have to walk on by," said Boles. "That's a hard thing to do. I wish those of you who do not wear a seat belt would wear an orange shirt so that when we cannot save you we realize that it's okay."
When a vehicle is moving 70 miles per hour and stops, the bodies inside the vehicle continue to move forward at 70 miles per hour until they hit an object that stops them. That makes it very likely that occupants who are not wearing seat belts will be ejected from the vehicle, said Boles.
"Hopefully this docudrama opened some eyes,"?said Boles. "I hope that you realize the importance of wearing your seat belt, and I hope that next time you go to a party you will be the one to say, 'No thank you. I've driving.'"
Lee Cable, a member of the Cox Aircare team, reminded students that when they are driving there are many other people on the roads.
"The thing I want you guys to think about when you see something like this is the person who is coming in the other direction," said Cable. "You don't want to be the person who is driving the vehicle that kills the family of four."
Cable also discussed the financial hardship an automobile accident can cause for a family. A chest or head injury can cost a family over $250,000 for medical and therapy services, said Cable.
"It's all about making choices," said John Lueckenhoff, Missouri State Highway Patrol trooper. "Choices get harder when the body is impaired by drugs or alcohol. Your judgment is impaired. Your driving is impaired. Your choice to wear a seat belt is impaired."
Cole was in charge of selecting the students who participated in the docudrama. She worked with Donna Allen, who orchestrates the local docudrama, to bring the event to Exeter this year.
"Donna does an awesome job at pulling these things together," said Cole. "I didn't have to do anything except select the students and provide the pizza for lunch."
Exeter High School students Porter, Hodge, Henderson, Scott, John Malicoat and Robbins met with Allen around two hours before the docudrama event to learn their lines and what to do during the drama, said Cole.
During preparations, Rose Pierson and Val Wilson applied lifelike make-up to the students in order to enhance the docudrama.
"When we found out that we were going to be in this docudrama, we were pretty excited," Porter said to her fellow classmates during the assembly after the docudrama.
"Even when they were putting the make-up on us we knew it wasn't real, and we didn't feel the whole impact," said Porter. "Later, as the docudrama went on, I began to feel really scared."
Organizations and individuals that participated in the docudrama event included: Cox Emergency Medical Services, Missouri Highway Patrol Trooper John Lueckenhoff, the Exeter Fire Protection District, Barry County Coroner Skip White, Cox Aircare and the Barry County Sheriff's Department. US Auto donated the vehicle for the docudrama event.