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Students get sober lesson in drinking & driving
Emergency personnel place a Ripon High senior onto a gurney after firefighters cut her out of a vehicle in a simulated Thursday morning collision involving a drunk driver that caused two deaths and several injuries. - photo by GLENN KAHL

It was a nightmarish scene

Bloodied passengers ran from a Mercedes and tried to wake a friend sprawled on the hood of the vehicle but it was too late. She was dead.

Just minutes prior they were laughing and driving carefree to school.

One of the girls ran to the glove box and found an empty pack of beer. She panicked as she tried to figure a way to hide the beer from police. The inebriated driver seemed numb unable to grasp they had just earned a one-way trip to jail.

When firefighters arrived they had to use the Jaws of Life to free several of the victims, tearing the doors off their hinges.

The only good thing about Thursday’s tragedy at Ripon High is that it wasn’t real. But what is real is the fact around 750 teens die every year in drunken driving accidents and countless others are seriously injured and often maimed for life.

Ripon’s emergency responders staged a simulated DUI crash Thursday morning as part of the Every 15 Minutes program aimed at deterring teens from drinking and driving.

Some 400 juniors and seniors sat quietly in the bleachers on the north end of Acacia Avenue as first responders in ambulances, fire vehicles, highway patrolmen responded to the scene where tarps were lifted off the mangled wrecks displaying the trapped, injured and dead inside the vehicles.

Retired sheriff lieutenant Chris Stevens — who has helped stage hundreds of similar programs — narrated what was unfolding in the aftermath of the DUI crash.

At least two girls and one teacher in the crowd were crying softly. They had experienced the horrors of DUI collisions that took the lives of loved ones in their past.

One Ripon High senior said the crash brought an event back crystal clear from her memory when her dad was nearly killed by a drunk driver years ago. 

Some of the boys remarked they had expected something akin to a boring rally in the gym, but found the presentation more than scary.

Students were stone silent when they saw a coroner’s vehicle drive up. The driver got out and removed a yellow sheet from a dead girl lying on the pavement. He worked her arms and placed his hands alongside her skull to check for brain trauma

Today the students and their parents will be involved in a follow up in the gym for a funeral. Parents are told to bring a box of tissues – it is always hard on them imagining their teens are dead.