One had too much to drink. One was texting. A classmate of theirs died.
Five senior class Andover High School theater actors and countless others bluntly showed the whole student body how careless actions can damage the lives of everyone involved.
On Tuesday (May 8) all students watched a video shot and produced by 13 students that showed Alicia Auch getting behind the wheel of a car when she had too much to drink. Peder Schuller was her passenger. Meanwhile, Alex Larsen was driving and texting in another car. His friends Brett Burger and Lexia Levendoski were passengers.
Larsen bragged how good he was at texting while driving with his knees. He did not see the other vehicle driven by Auch until just before it slammed into them.
A 911 dispatcher tries to pull information from a frantic caller. The dispatcher deciphers that there was a personal injury accident and sends out first responders from Allina ambulance service, the Andover Fire Department and the Anoka County Sheriff’s Office.
The video ends by showing these first responders racing to the crash.
The scenario left the television screen and unfolded on the Andover High School football field on Wednesday morning (May 9). Tarps were pulled off the two damaged vehicles the actors sat in and first responders rushed in.
Sheriff’s office deputies checked on the condition of everyone. Schuller was pinned on the passenger side of the vehicle that Larsen’s car struck, so the fire department had to use the jaws of life to pry open the door. A medical crew examined him and pronounced him dead at the scene. In the video, Schuller told Auch that he believed she had too much to drink, but he did not take her car keys. Instead, he watched as she clumsily dropped her keys and said she was fine to drive.
Instead of meeting up with their friends, Schuller was in a body bag and Auch was handcuffed in the back of a squad car after she failed a mock field sobriety test. Burger was airlifted by a LifeLink helicopter. Levendoski and Larsen were brought to ambulances on the scene.
“It was extremely frightening to be a part of it and enlightening at the same time,” Auch said.
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The school’s theater director Amanda Schilling said students were able to choose which roles they were comfortable playing, but she wanted a female to be the drunk driver because the stereotype is men are usually the drunk drivers and she wanted to show that anybody could make poor choices.
According to information compiled by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, eight teens ages 16 to 19 died every day from injuries caused by motor vehicle accidents. Teens of this age are four times more likely than older drivers to be involved in traffic accidents. Speeding, being distracted by other teens in the car, texting, drinking and driving, and inexperience are factors that lead to these high numbers.
High school students hear this message from their parents, teachers and school police liaison officer. However, Andover High School’s liaison officer Deputy Chris Fahey said many do not think this could happen to them. He was excited to see the reaction on students’ faces as they soaked in the mock crash scene.
“I think it has a stronger impact seeing kids they know (in these situations),” Fahey said.
Next week leading up to the May 19 prom at the IDS Center in downtown Minneapolis, the students who took pictures will display their work in a collage at the school.
Furthermore, they will shoot a final video of a deputy and clergy stopping by the home of parents to tell them their child died in a car crash. Getting a set of parents to volunteer for this scene was very difficult of course, Principal Rhonda Dean said.
Fahey said when the students see this, they will have a better understanding of how bad decisions by drivers greatly impact more than the people who are killed or injured.
“No more white crosses on corners is always our goal,” Sheriff James Stuart told the students.
Eric Hagen is at firstname.lastname@example.org