Ambulances, fire trucks and police cars rushed to Neoga High School Thursday, with an Airlift helicopter not far behind. Behind the high school, there were two vans wrecked from a front-end collision, while students, dressed in prom formals, lay on the cement covered in blood.
The scene wasn't real, but the message was, giving students a sobering visual reminder of what could happen if they drink and drive.
The mock drunk-driving crash was staged by Students Against Dangerous Decisions. Morgan Partlow played the unfortunate victim of the scenario. She had been ejected from the vehicle and spent most of the event lying on the ground as her mother stood over her. She was eventually taken from the scene in a hearse.
"I just started crying as soon as I got in the hearse," she said, standing in front of Neoga Fire Protection District after the event.
Partlow said taking part in the event made her come to realize the far-reaching impact an accident, such as the one that was depicted, can have on her family and community.
"It made me relate to the emotions of other people," she said.
Trooper Tammy Welborn, safety education officer for Illinois State Police District 12, said emergency services' staged response was an accurate representation of what happens after an alcohol-related accident.
"What you saw today is a very real situation on county roads and city streets throughout the state," she said.
According to Welborn, there have been 159 fatal vehicle accidents in the state since the beginning of the year, with most of those accidents happening not on the interstate, but on county and city roads. She attributed many of those accidents to preventable causes, namely driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, distracted driving and speeding. She encourages students to avoid taking part in activities which may compromise their ability to drive.
"You don't want to be at a fellow student's funeral," she said. "You don't want to have your teachers have to explain what has happened."
Jackson Adams can be reached at 217-347-7151, ext. 131, at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @EDNJAdams.