St. Amant — Jaci Perkins, 17, was trembling and emotional as she talked about her experiences during a recent “mock crash” exercise at St. Amant High School.
Jaci, who spent most of the hour-long presentation motionless, sprawled out on the hood of a mangled car, said the ride in the back of a hearse will have the most lasting effect.
“I’m kinda creeped out,” she said after exiting the hearse.
The program, part of the “Consequences of Impact” program hosted by Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center and State Police, simulated what happens “when young people make bad decisions,” Trooper Russell Graham said.
Four of Heidi Frederic’s theater students played the roles of teens involved in a head-on collision. The scene played out in one of the school’s two parking lots facing a busily traveled La. 431.
The scenario included one of the students, played by Kerel Edwards, 15, looking away from the road for a few seconds to text and crashing into another car. Edwards’ occupant, Perkins, was not wearing her seat belt and was thrown through the car’s windshield. In the accident simulation, Edwards also admitted he drank a beer at a graduation party.
In the other car, Brooke Sonnier, 18, tried to calm her friend, Alixx Zeller, 17, who was trapped and losing consciousness.
Zeller, who was not wearing her seat belt in the re-creation, had to be extricated from the vehicle and taken to a trauma center.
The St. Amant High School junior class sat quietly as the simulation played out.
“We want to keep this from happening to you,” Graham said.
St. Amant Fire Chief James LeBlanc said students need to understand that scenes like the one played out on May 10 at the school do “happen here.”
He said his department responded to an auto crash on May 9 on Gold Place Road in St. Amant where “four kids were transported” to the hospital.
LeBlanc said his department responded to 22 car crashes last year, and three involved St. Amant high school students who were arrested for driving drunk.
LeBlanc credited St. Amant volunteer firefighter Chris Derooache with requesting and organizing the mock crash. Derooache thanked the members of the department’s junior firefighters program for assisting with the program.
At the end of the mock crash, junior firefighters placed a cross and flowers at the scene of the wreck, simulating what would actually happen if a crash had occurred near the school, LeBlanc said.
Perkins, whose face was covered in realistic makeup done by an artist with the 13th Gate, said she won’t soon forget the experiences of the simulated crash.
“I was alive, riding in the back of a hearse,” Perkins said. “It wasn’t good.”
Edwards, who ended the scenario being arrested for DWI and vehicular homicide, said, “This is something I don’t want to see anybody go through.”
“Drinking and driving is something you don’t want to do,” he said. “It could be you lying on that hood.”
Dr. Stewart Cayton, trauma surgeon with Our Lady of the Lake, said he deals with the aftermath of horrific crashes “on a daily basis.”
In the scenario, Zeller had a traumatic brain injury and one of her legs was amputated.
“Please take the time to think and don’t do something stupid you will have to deal with for the rest of your life,” Cayton said.