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R-P mock crash hits hard

By Kirsten Zoellner

Fri, May 3rd, 2013
Posted in Rushford Education

The mock crash captivated spectators’ attention on April 26 when R-P students depicted this drunk driving scene. Photo by Kirsten Zoellner

“In 2008, 11,773 people were killed in alcohol-impaired-driving crashes. These alcohol-impaired-driving fatalities accounted for 32 percent of the total motor vehicle traffic fatalities in the United States.”

“The 11,773 fatalities in alcohol-impaired-driving crashes during 2008 represent an average of one alcohol-impaired-driving fatality every 45 minutes.” – National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, National Center for Statistics and Analysis

As the weather warms, the school year winds down, and area youth grow eager to hang out with friends, Rushford-Peterson’s Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) chapter offers a sobering reminder about one dangers of driving while intoxicated. “Just that one night can affect so many lives. One drink can have so many consequences,” notes group member Rebecca Munson.

In a massive coordinated event, the group held a mock crash Friday, April 26. The concept grabs the attention of youth, giving them a shocking visual to think back on when opportunities for poor decisions lurk. R-P hasn’t held a mock crash in what one member estimated was six to ten years. Now, the district is looking at staging an accident once every four years so all students will have the opportunity to see it once during high school.

All students in grades 9-12 were bussed out to Enterprise Drive on the city’s north end, where City of Rushford workers had moved several large sections of bleachers and blocked off the street. As a pre-recorded segment of crash actors Emma Bauer, Isaiah Bunke, Cody Manfull, Mariah Mueller, Phil and Rachel O’Shaughnessy played over speakers, coordinators held tarps over the two vehicles. Then, with a help from a gust of wind, they pulled off the tarps. A few students gasped, some chuckled, but within minutes all were silently captivated.

The crash was to depict Manfull, Mueller, and the O’Shaugnessy siblings in a green van, with an intoxicated Phil O’Shaugnessy at the driver’s wheel. In the other vehicle, a tan sedan, were Bauer and Bunke. All clad in formal prom attire, the actors were splashed with faux blood and each had a particular set of injuries. Rachel O’Shaugnessy’s role was one of a young girl, ejected from the vehicle and lying lifelessly on the ground, having died on impact. Bauer’s body was slung across the hood of the sedan, through the windshield of the vehicle.

Shortly after Manfull made a frantic mock phone call to 911, Rushford Police officers Cody Bellock and Chris Frick arrived, lights flashing and sirens on. Quickly assessing the situation, they took the injured actors aside to assess the situation. The Rushford Fire Department and Rushford Ambulance rescue rigs arrived and the service members played right into the action tending to those with injuries, prepping to use the Jaws of Life to get Bauer from the vehicle, and covering O’Shaugnessy’s body with a tell-tale white sheet.

Officer Frick executed a field sobriety test, which O’Shaugnessy failed. Shortly after he was led away in handcuffs in front of the soundless audience. Hoff Funeral Homes staff arrived, with stretcher, to collect their classmate’s body. Rushford Fire Department members then secured the scene as Gunderson-Lutheran MedLink AIR helicopter landed to collect what was to be a severely injured Bauer, who then, according to the well-laid script, “died” enroute to the hospital.

The dramatic half-hour presentation ran the gamut of emotions for the actors of confusion and shock over the accident, anger at the intoxicated driver, fear of consequences, and finally sadness at the loss of two of their classmates. Following the mock crash, all students were bussed back to the high school where they gathered in the theater for a one-hour mock funeral presentation.

At the theater, Officers Cody Bellock and Chris Frick brought forth a handcuffed and bloodied Phil O’Shaughnessy, while listing the charges and penalty consequences, as well as sharing their own personal stories of run-ins with drunk drivers. “The worst part about this job, I’ve got to knock on the mom’s door and explain why her daughter ain’t coming home,” noted Frick. “It has drastic effects. Think about it before you do something.”

While kids are typically whispering to each other at this point in most assemblies, the theater was eerily quiet as the students listened and watched. A letter from a victim to her mother, entitled Somebody Should Have Told Him (author unknown), gave the perspective of the victim lying on ground listening to paramedics talk as they die. Certified Funeral Celebrant John Wagenarr delivered a moving funeral message to the audience and a nearly ten minute tribute video of the victim’s lives played.

Lauri Bauer, mother of “victim” Emma Bauer, also delivered an address to the student body. “Life can change in an instant,” she said, tearing up. “I’ve seen first-hand the devastating effects one wrong decision can make. I don’t think people, especially kids, understand how permanent death is, until it’s too late.”

If the students hadn’t hit shock yet, they soon did as a collective sniffling could be heard in the theater. Students wiped tears from their faces as Kris Murley, R-P High School secretary, told her stirring autobiography. Written 18 years ago and titled The One and Only Night, Murley’s story recounted the night that she, as an 11-year old 5th grader, learned her 14-year old brother Tim had been killed in a drunk driving accident. “The driver was going 80 miles per hour and what he didn’t see was a 90 degree turn. The car flipped down embankment and my brother’s body was thrown over 50 yards. This Friday, May third, it will be 33 years since my brother died,” she sobbed. “Not a day goes by when I don’t think of him.”

“All of this pain was caused by drinking and driving,” she continued. “If you think you’re invincible, you’re not. I will be the first person to tell you that. If you think things can’t or won’t happen to you from drinking and driving, I’m going to be the first person to tell you they can. If you think it’s just your life, that we shouldn’t take your keys away from you when you’re drunk, I’m going to be the first person who grabs them from you. Take a look around. Chances are you’re probably sitting next to your best friend. Can you imagine your life without them? Don’t drink and drive. It’s not only your life that you can kill. Be that person that tells your friend you aren’t going to drink and drive.” The student body gave Murley a standing ovation.

“This was an opportunity for us to experience as close to reality as possible. Since I’ve been here, we’ve talked a lot about making good choices. Those temptations are going to present themselves to you,” said High School principal Shane McBroom in closing. “I encourage all of you to make sure you’re making good choices. Step up when somebody is about to make a poor choice.”

The SADD chapter is led by R-P teachers Crystal Bieberdorf and Cheri Vix. Other participants include seniors Briana Benson, Sierra McNamer, and Rebecca Munson. Nine Winona State University students assisted with coordinating the mock crash, along with professor Carrie Spier, Megan Ohman, Jenni Knapmiller, Krista Turgeon, Rebecca Zehner, Rachel Scholz, Megan Isackson, Samantha Buxton, Brittany Jilk, and Georgia Stumpf.

Fire Department participants were Dale Brand, Michael Evenson, Wayne Exe, Brent Johnson, Evan Meier, Jeffrey O’Donnell, Chad Rasmussen, and chief Paul Corcoran. Ambulance service participants were Curt Courier, David Lombard, and Dennis Overland. Brown’s Tire & Battery provided the vehicles and assisted with staging the accident. Special thanks to Hoff Funeral Home and Gunderson-Lutheran MedLink AIR for participating, and the City of Rushford for its assistance.

A video of the mock crash can be seen at the under the towns of Rushford, Rushford Village or Peterson and under the category of Education. This video is also included with this article online at

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