The Van Wert County Courthouse

Thursday, May. 6, 2021

What can happen if students aren’t careful

DAVE MOSIER/independent editor

It’s not often that teenagers get to see first-hand what could happen when they drive recklessly or are negligent.

A Middle Point Fire Department firefighter cuts a roof stanchion on a car while a “dead” student lies where she was ejected from the vehicle. photos by Dave Mosier/Van Wert independent

Fortunately, the fatal rollover accident Lincolnview High School students viewed Friday afternoon in the school parking lot — which also resulted in serious injuries and one student being life-flighted — wasn’t real. But Middle Point Fire Chief Craig King said something similar definitely could happen if students are distracted, drink and drive, and take other risks while driving.

Chief King said his department typically partners with other first-responder agencies to put on a mock crash scenario prior to the school prom. While the scenario usually occurs every other year, last year’s mock crash was just another victim of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We try to do this every two years or so to show the kids what really happens and the true effects of careless driving and distracted driving,” the fire chief explained, adding that doing it annually would likely lessen its impact. “We like to give them an up-close view and let them actually see in real time what happens, kind of let reality sink in a little bit.”

Because the scenario unfolds just like a real accident, with a 9-1-1 call, and first responders arriving on the scene, students were able to realize that, first of all, it takes time to get help to an accident scene. Volunteer firefighters and EMTs need to be called out and get their equipment, deputies and troopers on patrol may not be in the immediate area, and a life-flight helicopter isn’t stationed in the county.

Chief Craig told students that getting seriously injured accident victims to the operating table within an hour is crucial to victims’ survival.

Moreover, while this year’s one-vehicle crash scenario was a bit toned down, compared to some past years — which have involved multiple vehicles and even a semi-tractor-trailer rig one year — Chief King said it still takes several months to organize all the details.

Scenes from Friday’s mock crash scenario at Lincolnview High School.

“The decision was made to keep things pretty simple this year, with a one-car rollover,” the fire chief noted.

Even so, the crash scenario involved approximately 15 first responders, including Middle Point Fire Department firefighters and medics, Van Wert County Sheriff’s Office deputies, a trooper from the Van Wert Post of the Ohio State Highway Patrol, a Coroner’s Office representative, and a medical transport crew and helicopter from Mercy Health Life Flight based in Toledo. There are also Lincolnview students who volunteer to be the “victims” in each mock crash.

“Of course, we’ve got great partners in the Sheriff’s Office and the OSP, and life-flight’s always been great to come and help,” he said, noting that planning typically starts shortly after the first of the year when he and other first-responders come together to decide what the mock crash scenario will look like.

One change this year came from a suggestion provided by a teacher, Chief Craig said.

“One of the faculty members suggested maybe letting the kids walk up to the car and seeing what happens, and actually seeing the scene before we tear it all apart,” he explained.

And tear it apart, they do. Firefighters use their specialized extraction gear to tear off doors and literally cut off the roof of the crash vehicle.

The vehicles for each mock crash are provided, at no charge, by Ohio City Auto Salvage, Chief Craig said, adding that without the donation of a crash vehicle, the mock accident scenarios couldn’t be held.

The fire chief said he hopes Lincolnview students take the mock accidents seriously, noting that, unfortunately, similar accidents do occur all too often in real life in Van Wert and surrounding counties as young people die needlessly in preventable accidents.

POSTED: 05/01/21 at 12:22 am. FILED UNDER: News