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FNL’s “Every 15 Minutes” raises awareness about driving under the influence

Wyatt Marshall plays the part of a DUI fatality during a dramatization of a car crash, rescue, and DUI arrest sponsored by Friday Night Live at the high school Tuesday, Apr. 16. Photo by Morgan Orgeron

AHS hosted Friday Night Live’s (FNL) program “Every 15 Minutes,” a two-day program that exposes students to the risks of driving under the influence. The school works with the San Luis Obispo FNL Partnership, the Office of Traffic Safety, and the California Highway Patrol (CHP) to put on this event. The two-day event took place on Tuesday, Apr. 16 and Wednesday, Apr. 17 at Memorial Coliseum and in the gym.

“Every 15 Minutes” is a two-day program meant to challenge high school students to think about the consequences of driving under the influence of alcohol or other drugs. The program included classroom notifications about the “dead,” a car accident reenactment that included the “arrest,” a funeral for the “dead,” and a retreat for the FNL students involved. FNL County Coordinator Jenn Rhoads said, “Conceptually people know it’s not a good idea to drink and drive, but what ‘Every 15 Minutes’ is geared at showing is what can happen to anyone.” She added, “We don’t want people to rely on ‘ehh, it won’t happen to me.’ We make it happen in a safe and controlled way so people can experience the aftermath without really having to lose a friend or a child.”

On Tuesday morning during second and fourth periods, CHP officers visited classrooms around campus and announced the “deaths” of 19 FNL students from alcohol-related collisions, and then read a paragraph about each student. The “living dead” students, who were present in their classrooms at the time, silently got up and left the room. Teachers then read a message to the class about the “Every 15 Minutes” program. Israel Reyna, Bella Otter, Frankie Fernandez, Haylee Ferrell, Megan VanAllen, Wyatt Hasch, Kylee Dutra, Olivia Leon, Meghan Calmere, Cristina Mansir, Olivia Carter, Lauren Erb, Nic Flores, Kylee Down, Westley Cooper, Mackenzie Bryson, Emily Newby, and Ryan Philbrick were all brought out of their classrooms as part of the “living dead.” The rest of the FNL club members were also absent from their classes and had given up contact with their friends and parents from Tuesday morning until Wednesday after the funeral.

After fourth period there was an assembly on the field/track where students experienced a reenactment of the aftermath of a deadly car accident. FNL students Wyatt Marshall, Tobi Rossi, Ki-Lin Baribeau, and Joelle Cappel were in the car that was hit. Brodie Story, Seth Robasciotti, and Natalie DeRose were in the other vehicle, and Story played the role of the drunk driver, who was field tested for sobriety and arrested at the scene.

The “rescue” began after the collision had taken place, and people in both cars had sustained serious injuries. Marshall had been thrown forward out of the driver’s seat, through the front windshield, and onto the hood of the car where he lay covered in false blood. Rossi, who was in the passenger seat, had serious head injuries and Baribeau was later given a neck brace and taken to the hospital on a stretcher. DeRose called 911 and the first responders were three police vehicles that arrived at the scene within five minutes. Next came two fire trucks and paramedics, who began patient assessment. Officers first checked Marshall’s pulse, and pronounced him dead at the scene. His body was removed and then covered by a yellow tarp where he waited for transport by a hearse to the mortuary. Fire and Rescue officers used the “Jaws of Life” to get Rossi and Baribeau from the car, and paramedics took them away on stretchers and into ambulances. Robasciotti was also taken away on a stretcher and driven away in an ambulance.

Senior Jacob Daniels was in the stands watching the action. “Honestly, I’m pretty shocked, like this is hard to watch,” said Daniels. According to Daniels, the “Every 15 Minutes” demonstration he witnessed solidified his resolve to not get into a car with anybody that he knows is under the influence and to stay away from situations that would result in potential disasters. “[It made me realize] that this does actually happen,” he said, adding that the scene made him “really uncomfortable, showing me exactly what not to do and reasons why I don’t partake in these types of activities.”

Atascadero Fire personnel “rescue” Tobi Rossi, who plays the part of a trapped and injured victim of a DUI crash during the Friday Night Live presentation. Photo by Morgan Orgeron.

To wrap up the first day’s presentation, Principal Neely announced, “This doesn’t have to happen. You have a choice, every time you get into a vehicle.” He encouraged students who felt like they needed additional support to visit counselors the library and Wellness Center. Counseling was available in the library, provided by County Behavioral Health Department from 7:45am to 3 pm on Tuesday and Wednesday. Mr. Neely ended the first day’s events by urging students to be careful about their everyday decisions. “Today you were able to see and hear and experience the realities of a DUI accident,” he said. “One more time, this is absolutely preventable, and it is a choice.”

After the events of the car accident, the FNL students went to the Holiday Inn in Paso Robles where they discussed the day’s events, remaining isolated from their friends and family to let the day’s events sink in.

The following day’s assembly was a mock funeral service for Wyatt Marshall. The parents of participating “living dead” students attended the event, along with Marshall’s parents Julie and Caine Marshall, who read Marshall’s obituary and gave gut-wrenching speeches in “memory”of their son. A professional photographer had pre-filmed the FNL students at the mortuary, Twin Cities Hospital, and the scene of the accident the day before to create a realistic storyline so students could relate to what led up to and then followed the accident.

The whole event was made possible thanks to local law enforcement personnel, fire and rescue staff, paramedics, and others who donated their time and resources to make the presentation absolutely realistic. West Coast Towing donated the cars for the accident simulation, delivering and removing them afterwards. Chapel of the Roses donated the hearse and coffin for the funeral. The program is paid for through a grant funded by the Office of Traffic Safety.

Everyone associated with Friday Night Live hopes that this program saves lives. “My biggest hope for all the students who experienced this is that they took it seriously and are able to take what they saw and motivate themselves to be safe,” said Baribeau, who played a crash victim. “There's always a better option than to drink and drive. Especially since none of us have been driving for very long, we need to be extra careful out on the roads.”

Atascadero resident Kim Mott, who is the SLO County representative for Friday Night Live, has been making “Every Fifteen Minutes” happen for many years. According to her, driving under the influence is an easy decision to make yet is so preventable. “Teens are only thinking about today and what is right in front of them, so this project allows us to show them the consequences of their actions, in particular driving under the influence, whether it is alcohol or marijuana, which we know are issues with young people,” she said. “And so our message today is for young people to feel it, hear it, see it, and experience the things that they don’t think about. This gives them an opportunity to think about their choices, so that they can make the right decision when it matters the most.”

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