Crash Scenario for Bonners Ferry Students – PART 2
LESSONS LEARNED OUTSIDE THE CLASSROOM
FOR BONNERS FERRY HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS
*Editor’s note: The following article contains valuable information
with graphic descriptions and photos.
After watching the crash scenario staged at the Bonners Ferry Middle School, at 10:45 the students entered the high school auditorium and took their seats. Principal Kevin Dinning welcomed the students. He brought the students who participated in the crash scenario on stage and thanked them. He then introduced the emergency personnel who made the scenario such a success, which included Bonners Ferry PD, Boundary County Sheriff’s Office, Idaho State Police, Bonners Ferry Fire Department, Boundary Ambulance, Life Flight and Bonners Ferry Funeral Home. This group of professionals worked together to provide excellent service and support to the injured role players in this scenario.
Bonners Ferry High School Librarian Dawn Carpenter was the first of several speakers to share her story of how a drunk driver affected her life. On August 13, 1972, she was in a catastrophic traffic accident inside a vehicle with her father and her mother who was holding her baby sister in the front seat when they were hit by a drunk driver. There were no car seats and no seat belts in the car. Her father was killed and her five month old baby sister was thrown from the car and was transported to the hospital by a police officer on scene, but the baby was dead on arrival. Her mother was revived twice while in the emergency room, and she did survive the crash. She remembered the ambulance personnel as being kind.
Although the accident occurred 45 years ago, she still recalls the painful, bumpy, and loud ride by ambulance after she had been extricated from the car as a “heap on the floor of the car, in great pain and in and out of consciousness.” She spoke of what is called “survivor’s guilt” and thought that perhaps her mom would have had a better life if she had died and her father had lived. Mrs. Carpenter experienced two difficult milestones in her life: 1. at her wedding she had to walk down the aisle alone instead of on the arm of her father, and 2. when her son was born she said her father would have been a fantastic grandfather. She entreated the students in the audience to not text, to not drive under the influence, and to always wear their seatbelts.
Almost 45 years ago, because someone chose to drink and drive, both Dawn Carpenter’s and her mother’s life were unnecessarily changed forever.
Jamielyn Rupe with ISP was the next speaker to address the students. On November 3rd, 1996, Jamielyn was in a vehicle with her mother and six year old sister when they were hit by a drunk driver on the driver’s side of their vehicle and went into a canal nearby. Her mother and six year old sister, Josalyn, died. The baby that was thrown from the car was Jamielyn, who had to grow up without her mother, while the DUI driver with a blood alcohol level of .131 survived the accident.
Idaho State Police Sergeant Allen Ashby, who was an integral part of putting the scenario together, then came to the podium. Ashby grew up in Bonners Ferry and joined the Idaho State Police in 2006, concentrating on the area of highway safety. He told the audience that two to three times a month he is involved in responding to a major collision incident. He told the group that the most common causes of these accidents are drivers that are impaired or distracted. And there is no doubt that wearing seat belts save lives!
He said that you can’t control the actions of other drivers, but seat belts restrain the major parts of the body and can save your life. He told the students that they have choices when it comes to driver safety and it is up to them to make a commitment to be safe. Some statistics that he gave were that 50% of all two vehicle fatal crashes are alcohol related and that 65% of all single vehicle fatal crashes are alcohol related. He said with young people between the ages of 16 to 24 that the number one cause of death are alcohol related crashes. Further statistics were provided that distracted driver crashes made up 22% of all crashes in 2014 and were responsible for 21% of all fatalities.
Sergeant Ashby then advised the student body that the upcoming presentation was going to be “heavy” and if any student had difficulty during the presentation that counselors were standing by to assist them. Sgt. Ashby set the scene of a traffic accident that he responded to where an alumni of Bonners Ferry High School was killed on August 20th, 2013. He took everyone through the accident scene via a power-point and the cause of the accident was someone texting while traveling on Highway 95 when the driver hit a vehicle stopped to make a turn onto Mountain Meadows Road.
A power-point presentation came up on the screen with a photo of Joshua Wilkerson and the reaction of the audience was palpable, as it was obvious that a number of the students in the audience were friends of Joshua or at least knew him. Sgt. Ashby introduced Wayne and Wanda Wilkerson, the parents of Joshua who was killed in the accident on August 20, 2013. One of the volunteer firemen that responded to the crash was Wayne Wilkerson, Joshua’s father.
The power-point presented to the student body depicted Joshua’s life since he was a child. With faltering tears and heart felt emotion, Wayne Wilkerson spoke of Josh’s plans and dreams, as well as his love of soccer and traveling. Josh grew up in Naples and graduated from Bonners Ferry High School in 2006, having attained life-long friendships. He attended North Idaho College and received his AA degree in general studies and attended the University of Montana where he obtained his Bachelor’s degree in 2012 in Wildlife Biology and a minor in Spanish. Josh had been married a very short time before the tragedy occurred that befell his family and new wife, caused by distracted driving from texting.
The Wilkerson’s poignant plea to the students and adults in the auditorium to not be distracted or impaired while driving was moving and heart felt. The love for their son and the pain they have suffered flowed over the auditorium like a blanket. The Wilkersons have taken this tragedy and use this to counsel students at schools about Josh and his unnecessary death caused by distracted driving.
I spoke to Shelby Sporl, one of the student role players of the scenario, and asked her a few questions two days after the presentation. Shelby shared with me that the scenario felt very real to her, especially with the stage makeup, and she had to remind herself that it was all staged. She mentioned that when Sgt. Ashby asked the students to raise their hands if they had ever texted while driving that she noted that some hands were raised but she knew several students that should have raised their hands but didn’t.
She said the students were reluctant to even speak about the scenario, apparently because the enactment was very disturbing to them. She said that the students are normally noisy after an assembly in the auditorium, but after the presentation they were very quiet, and you could almost hear a pin drop. She said that a lot of the students knew Joshua. Shelby felt that this presentation will help make students think twice before texting or drinking and driving.
Thanks should be given to the volunteers as well as the sworn officers in our community that give of themselves to help us when emergency services are needed.
Part 2 Photos. Graphic Warning.
All photos copyright 2017 Donna Capurso, Redoubt News