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Students mourn loss of classmates in DUI tragedy
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Manteca officers Victor Vincent and Jason Hensley stand by a church door as students escorted one of four caskets in the Every 15 Minutes program. Everyone involved demonstrated a very somber mood during the three day event. - photo by GLENN KAHL
The reaction to death and carnage involving fellow students brought out very real tears, Kleenex and depression at a funeral for the “victims” of the Every 15 Minutes staged crash scene in the Manteca High School football stadium Wednesday morning.

The Christian Worship Center was packed with seniors and family members as students served as pallbearers bringing four caskets to the front of the church sanctuary in the second day of the three-day scenario.

The Manteca High senior girl who played the part of the arrested “drunk driver,” Cynthia Perez, who allegedly caused the crash, demonstrated visual remorse even though the deaths were scripted.  She stood waiting in the lobby of the church in an orange jail jump suit being escorted into the service by Manteca officer Dan Chestnut.  Tears actually welled up in her eyes as she prepared to walk down the aisle into the church.

Audience members – parents and students alike  seated in the body of the church reacted in much the same way as they realized this could have actually been the real thing – an actual funeral for four – that they were attending.  They dramatically seemed to realize the possibility that their sons, daughters, and friends might someday be victims of a drunk driver.

Each year the Every 15 Minutes event brings the same reactions – time and again – as a new set of parents and friends feel the perceived consequences of drinking and driving.

Manteca school resource officers, street patrolmen and a member of the California Highway Patrol were all taking part in the staged funeral – all conscious that their efforts were making an impact on the young drivers and their parents.  They all hoped that the impact would last through the upcoming graduations and the summer months.

All the Manteca High schools’ 12th-grade students were involved in the program including seniors from Calla High School on Austin Road.

Kenny Summers, director of the P.L. Fry Funeral Home, played a big role in the event being in charge of organizing the church funeral for the four deceased students.