Lathrop High School and the first responders in the community delivered the school’s Every 15 Minute presentation with a bang – literally, Wednesday morning – when blue tarps were pulled clear of two vehicles that had crashed head-on, creating a hard to believe scripted mayhem to the teenage passengers.
Hundreds of juniors and seniors, filling the stadium stands, watched in awe as a flash-bang grenade exploded behind the wreckage on the high school track – signaling the impact of the collision. From that moment on the students in the bleachers watched attentively – obviously more interested than most over past years.
It was explained to them over a loud speaker how critical the first hour can be after such a serious collision with a decreasing chance of survival minute by minute. After the 911 call went into the dispatch center, it took about four minutes before fire units from the Lathrop-Manteca Fire Department – with sirens blaring – could be heard driving into the campus behind the bleachers and finally onto the track.
Several minutes later more deafening sirens roared onto the campus with police cars from the Lathrop Police Services and a motorcycle officer along with a backup fire engine from the Manteca Fire Department and two Manteca District Ambulances.
A surviving passenger from one of the cars ran to her friend who was obviously dead and had been thrown through the windshield, landing face down on the hood of the car. She put her hands to her face and called his name in vain. Others in the two cars were obviously injured and sitting amid bottles of alcohol. They were removed from their vehicles by firefighters using the Jaws of Life to cut the top off of one car. The injured were placed on tarps that were placed on the infield grass where a triage check of injuries was conducted by arriving medics.
Highway patrol officers were seen pouring the remaining alcohol out of the nearly empty bottles and placing them on the back of one of the cars – making a strong point with the student audience watching from the stands.
Sheriff’s officers from Lathrop Police Services detained the suspected responsible driver for allegedly driving under the influence of alcohol. They conducted a preliminary roadside alcohol test of the teen to determine his physical and psychological condition and determined that he was in fact under the influence and should not have been driving in his inebriated state. He was then handcuffed and placed in a Lathrop Sheriff’s unit and transported to jail as his classmates watched.
As the “walking dead” stood in their black attire in the center of the field led by the “grim reaper,” a red REACH emergency helicopter from Stockton Municipal Airport approached Lathrop High from the northeast. A landing zone had been set up in the center of the athletic field where the helicopter set down after circling the stadium. A flight nurse ran from the chopper to the Lathrop Manteca Fire Department Battalion Chief to get his instructions and condition of the critically injured student they were about to transport who had been kept in an ambulance until the helicopter arrived on the scene. It was just 10 minutes later that a half dozen firefighters carried their stretcher to the waiting air rescue unit – with it going airborne to San Joaquin General Hospital’s trauma unit.
Other crash victims with lesser injuries were transported to hospitals by ground ambulance units.
As students watched from the stands another Sheriff’s car pulled onto the track. It was the coroner who would examine the fatality still on the hood of the car and do a standard preliminary check of his body – heart wrenching to watch for many who found it difficult to separate its theatrical nature from the real thing.
Today a funeral will be held for deceased students in the school gym where parents are always seen wiping away tears for what they see could have been a real tragedy in their lives. They will be addressed by a superior court judge and a civil attorney who will explain the economic pain that may be inflicted on the family of the young DUI driver.
To contact Glenn Kahl, email firstname.lastname@example.org.