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Drunken driving lesson at Lathrop High
Fatally injured in the crash, deceased Lathrop senior Omar Guzman, is examined by a Sheriffs coroner as a silent crowd of students in the background watch from their seats. - photo by GLENN KAHL

LATHROP — An “Every 15 Minutes” simulated fatal vehicle crash killing one Lathrop High student and injuring five others was played out Thursday morning in the high school football stadium before some 500 juniors and seniors.

There were 31 students involved in the production. The goal is to hoepfully save at least one life caused by drinking and driving during the upcoming prom and graduation celebrations.

Teachers and first responders alike congratulated the students for their obvious respect for the performance that displayed the pain and death seen in the consequences in daily life.

Retired Sheriff’s Lieutenant Chris Stevens acted as the narrator to the hour-long program – one of 10 he is charged with leading during the remainder of this school year.  Stevens goes above and beyond to subtly make his point about the dangers of alcohol and being behind the wheel of a car.

Firefighters from the Lathrop-Manteca Fire Department pulled back a red tarp that covered the crash scene between a car and a pickup truck letting students see the result of the head-on impact.  Girls screamed from inside the car and another lay dead on the hood having been thrown through the windshield.

A teen who had been riding in the back of a friend’s pickup truck had been thrown to the ground and was presumed dead.  The boys had just left a party and the victim had jumped in the back of the truck for a ride feeling invincible.

Other students with their faces painted in gray marched onto the field representing the “Living Dead” as a CHP unit, Sheriff’s cars, fire trucks and ambulances screamed onto the track with red lights and sirens blaring as students sat fixated in the stands.

The red REACH air ambulance helicopter circled the stadium and landed on the turf to transport one of the most seriously injured students to a trauma center.  Police officers interviewed the injured and the drivers of both vehicles.  The girl who was driving was handcuffed and placed into a patrol unit.  The other driver said he had the green light and insisted that the girl came out of nowhere.

Coroner’s officers checked out the body of the dead senior and placed it in a black body bag that was transported by a local funeral home off of the field and to the morgue.

An obituary was read to students by a teacher who was standing at the bottom of the stands about the dead student.

“Omar Guzman was found dead on March 21.  Omar was only 17 and a senior at Lathrop High School.  Omar was leaving a hotel party and got into a car with a group of friends.  Omar thought it would be okay to hop into the back of his friend’s pickup truck, since they weren’t going too far.  When they were arriving at a store, a black Dodge Neon collided head-on with the truck.  Omar was found dead at the scene.  He had been thrown from the truck.

“Omar left behind his parents Maria and Sergio Guzman and his siblings Brenda, Sergio and Estevan Guzman.  Omar was a part of the soccer and wrestling teams, excelling in both sports.  His hobbies included hanging out with his closest friends Ricardo, Gilberto, Roberto, George and Kevin.  His future plans were to go to Stanislaus State and major in Criminal Justice.

“His family and friends will always remember him for being funny, outgoing, friendly and buff,” she concluded.

Narrator Chris Stevens succinctly made his point even more clear at the end of the production as a cell phone rang from the pickup truck.  He walked to the side of the vehicle, opened the door, and picked up the phone.  Holding it in his right hand, Stevens turned and looked at the students in the crowd saying, “Nobody is answering this phone today!”

A prayer service was held at the Grace Community Service at J and Fifth Street in Lathrop last night.  Today at 11 a.m. a mock funeral and assembly is slated for the school’s large gym where parents will first see their students since the scenario began Thursday morning.