Mock crash scene impacts students

Thursday, October 1, 2009
Tears of endearment Democrat Photo Purdy High School students gathered around "the scene of an accident" on Gabby Gibbons Drive near Purdy High School on Sept. 24 for a docudrama presented by Purdy FCCLA students. Officer Andy Ward with the Missouri State Highway Patrol is pictured above taking a statement from a tearful Carisa Willey, who is the sister of Caleb Willey. Caleb played the deceased "crash victim" as part of the docudrama.

Purdy High School was in the spotlight last Thursday afternoon when authorities were called to the "scene of an accident" near the school on Gabby Gibbons Drive.

After Purdy High School students were instructed to assemble outside, a telephone call was made to emergency personnel informing them there had been a wreck.

The event started to unfold as students began to congregate around the scene and attention was immediately drawn to the accident and the crash "victims."

Purdy Chief of Police Jackie Lowe was the first to arrive at the scene, which was set up to look like an actual crash site with Purdy students acting as the victims. After a quick evaluation, Lowe radioed dispatch, reporting several injuries and a possible fatality.

Authorities with Purdy Fire Protection, Barry/Lawrence Ambulance, Missouri State Highway Patrol and Med Flight were immediately dispatched to the scene.

According to the police scenario, the accident occurred when the northbound vehicle driven by Riley Veith, a junior at Purdy High School, veered across the road and struck the oncoming southbound vehicle.

Veith had allegedly been drinking and texting on his cell phone when the crash occurred. Empty cans of beer surrounded the northbound vehicle, which laid on its side.

Caleb Willey, a passenger in the vehicle driven by Veith, was thrown from the vehicle and was pronounced dead at the scene. Veith sustained no injuries.

Madeline Tate, a junior at Purdy High School, was the driver of the southbound vehicle. Purdy High School juniors Nicole Terry and Kaitlyn Kast were passengers in the vehicle driven by Tate.

Due to the impact, Terry was thrown through the windshield and lay helplessly across the hood of the car. Tate and Kast were trapped inside the vehicle. All three girls were in critical condition.

Fire personnel and first responders worked quickly to stabilize the injured girls. The "jaws of life" were used to cut through the metal of the car to gain access to the two girls who were trapped inside the vehicle.

Each of the girls were carefully removed from the vehicle and placed on backboards. Once stabilized, Tate and Kast were transported by ambulance. Terry was life-flighted to Joplin by Med Flight.

After undergoing a sobriety test, Veith was "arrested" for driving while intoxicated and minor in possession. Veith also received a charge of texting while driving. In August, a law was passed forbidding anyone age 21 and under to text, in any form, while driving.

The events that led to the crash:

On the morning of the accident, biology teacher Don Terry had reprimanded Tate, Terry and Kast after noticing they hadn't been following through with their responsibilities of feeding the animals, which was part of the girls' advanced biology project.

In an effort to rectify their wrong-doings, the girls told their teacher they would go to the store to get pet food during their fifth hour class.

During baseball practice, Veith had gotten into an argument with Coach Hughes and was kicked off the baseball team. Willey left the school with Veith in an attempt to calm him down.

Unwilling to listen to his friend, Veith began drinking beer and against Willeys' advice, Veith decided to drive back to the school to talk to Coach Hughes since baseball was "his life." Willey rode in the vehicle with him.

On his way to the school, Veith was drunk and was texting his mom. The girls had just left the school in Tate's vehicle when the two vehicles collided.

The docudrama was created to provide a visual re-enactment of what can happen as a result of drinking or texting while driving.

The event's success was attributed to Purdy High School FCCLA advisor Myra McGee, who organized the docudrama, and the City of Purdy for the use of its community building where the students prepared for the event.

Credit was also given to law enforcement authorities and emergency response personnel for their part in helping provide students with a realistic view of a crash scene.

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