The Every 15 Minute production was put on once again by emergency responders and educators who hope to possibly save the life of a student on the highways at graduation time.
Medics, firefighters and police officers have been there before and have witnessed the carnage that can be caused by excited and carefree graduates who have mixed drinking and driving in with their celebrating.
Seniors from Manteca’s high schools filled the stands at Manteca’s Gus Schmiedt Stadium at 10 a.m. Thursday morning to witness a collision between a car and a four-by-four that had turned upside down.
As smoke poured from the sedan, two motorcycle officers entered the stadium with fire equipment screaming onto the field behind them. It was clearly a multiple injury crash with possible fatalities.
The student audience in the stands appeared seriously focused on what was unfolding before them. The parents who were sitting with them were visibly having trouble separating fact from fiction.
Students had been pulled out of their morning classes by a police officer and the “Grim Reaper” who left a rose and an obituary on their desks to make an impact on their class members who wouldn’t see them until after the Friday memorial service.
The production was narrated on the field with Manteca Police Sgt. Chris Mraz on the microphone. He made the students aware of the time delays after the crash that made up the “golden hour” of survival where victims must receive medical care.
It took so much time for police to arrive, then fire units, ambulances and finally the PHI helicopter that landed on the field 41 minutes after the initial crash. Fire crews set up a landing zone for the chopper with the pilot and flight nurse meeting ambulance personnel with a safety plan of carrying the mortally injured youth to the air ambulance.
It takes up to a year to plan the event and Every 15 Minutes committee members meet together and plan all year long. The committee includes all emergency responders as well as representatives of the California Highway Patrol.
Also involved with the program were the police school resource officers April Smith, Eva Steele and Jason Bonetti. They all had to supervise their seniors being pulled out of class by the “Grim Reaper” and to see that makeup was applied properly to the 50-some students who made up “The Walking Dead” who walked on the field behind the emergency activity.
A driver was found to be legally under the influence at the crash scene where he was handcuffed and placed in a police car. He later faced Superior Court Judge Toni Agbayani Thursday afternoon and was found guilty.
Judge Agbayani, of Manteca, will be speaking to students at today’s memorial service for the student who died in the crash. The students and their parents will sit through the morning service looking at caskets where several speakers promise to transform the pretend into what will take on the appreciation of a real tragedy for graduates and their friends and families.