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Mock crash hits hard for first responders

Firefighters, deputies and police attend to the mock crash victims. (Beth Leipholtz / Echo Press)1 / 3
Alexandria Area High School student Hope Burnham is rushed to a helicopter to be flown to St. Cloud Hospital from the mock crash scene. She was not wearing a seatbelt during the mock crash scenario, resulting in a head injury. (Beth Leipholtz / Echo Press)2 / 3
Sophomore students watch as first responders assess one of the mock crash victims on Wednesday, May 16. (Beth Leipholtz / Echo Press) 3 / 3

Saving even one life — for Alexandria Police Captain Scott Kent, that's what it comes down to.

Kent spoke to sophomore students at the Alexandria Area High School on Wednesday, May 16, ahead of the annual mock car crash. With student actors as crash victims and real first responders, the mock crash serves as a way to warn against the dangers of distracted driving.

"Even if there's one of you sitting here today that makes a decision differently that will impact or save lives of your friends, your families and yourselves, we hope that will happen," he said. "We will never know how many lives we've saved by putting this on but we hope we save and continue to save lives."

The event began in the Performing Arts Center with a pre-crash video created by the student mock crash victims. The video showed six students in a car, taking a selfie while driving. As the driver went to check the photo, she lost control and overcorrected, causing the vehicle to roll. The video ended as one of the students called 911 and told the dispatcher there had been an accident and her friends were hurt.

After the video, students walked to the school's parking lot where the mock crash was set up. As first responders began arriving on scene, North Memorial Ambulance Manager Scott Johnson explained each entity and its role, stressing the potential reality of the situation to students.

"Some of you are sitting in the stands right now thinking this isn't going to happen to you or this doesn't happen around here," he said. "But it does happen. It has happened here, locally."

After the scenario unfolded, each of the student actors spoke about how the crash had impacted his or her life. First responders also explained how such crashes affected them.

Alexandria Fire Chief Jeff Karrow has been involved in the mock crash for about 15 years and says it always leaves an impact.

"We are a small town," he said. "Our fire department, we know a lot of these kids. We have kids in high school. ... Every time we do it, it is hard."

Karrow says that for him, the mock crash can be more emotional than responding to real crashes.

"When it's a real thing, you're on autopilot and adrenaline and it's boom, boom, boom," he said. "The emotion is probably a little removed at a real scene until after the fact. But here (at the mock crash), during it, the emotion is there. You really are trying to make an impact."

The mock crash is sponsored by the Douglas County Safe Communities Coalition and the high school.

Community organizations involved in the event included the Alexandria Police Department, Douglas County Sheriff's Office and Dispatch, North Memorial Ambulance, Horizon Public Health, Life Link III, Alexandria Fire Department, Alomere Heath, Alexandria Technical and Community College, Anderson Funeral Home, West Central EMS, Budget Auto and Alexandria Area High School staff and students.

Student actors in the crash included sophomore Grace Fink, senior Lynnea Basset, senior Hope Burnham, junior Keyanna Barker, senior Raylinn Garrett and junior Em Nelson. The mock crash was videotaped by senior Tanner Koep.

Beth Leipholtz

Beth is a reporter at the Echo Press. She graduated from the College of Saint Benedict in May 2015 with a degree in Communication and Hispanic Studies. Journalism has always been her passion, but she also enjoys blogging and graphic design. In her spare time, she's most likely at Crossfit or at home with her boyfriend and three dogs.

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