PARTY offers up intense lessons

Masha Scheele Photo

Masha Scheele

“911, what’s your emergency?” students from Harry Collinge High School heard as an old clip of a 911 call that had occurred in Yellowhead County.

Throughout the almost half-hour clip, students heard the voice of a young woman, crying, yelling, and trying to make sense of the vehicle roll over from which she just crawled.

The crash had been fatal for some of her friends, and the woman admitted in the clip that they had been drinking and driving.

Trying to explain to the 911 operator where the crash happened proved to be difficult in her state, until another driver turned onto the road where they had crashed and helped inform emergency responders of the location.

When the clip came to an end, the lights flicked back on at the Hinton Fire Hall on May 9 where the group of Grade 9 students were taking part in the Prevent Alcohol and Risk- Related Trauma in Youth (PARTY) program.

Presentations from the RCMP, EMS and Hinton Fire on the dangers of drinking and driving and distracted driving started off the morning.

An officer in the room spoke to the students about the clip they just listened to, when he suddenly received an emergency call of a motor vehicle accident. He sent students down the stairs and out the backside of the fire hall, where they walked onto a dramatic scene set up with a head-on collision. The front of two vehicles were smashed in and a woman in the passenger seat of a sedan was covered in blood, screaming in pain.

“Please help my friend! Please,” she screamed, beside her in the driver’s seat a lifeless woman sat slumped over with gashes in her head.

The students silently sat down on the bleachers that were set up to view the mock accident.

Masha Scheele Photo

A woman emerged from the van that had supposedly struck the sedan, “what happened?” she said as she drunkenly stumbled over to the screaming woman.

Emergency vehicles blared around the corner and two police officers quickly took the impaired driver away from the scene as emergency responders checked both women in the sedan.

The lifeless body of the driver was quickly covered up after emergency responders declared her to be dead, all while the passenger was still screaming that somebody needed to help her friend.

For this exercise, firefighters from the Junior Firefighting Program were tasked to cut out the window of the vehicle and then cut off the entire top section of the sedan.

“There’s a baby seat in here,” one member of the EMS called out, prompting a search for a baby.

“Imagine looking for baby at a scene like this, that baby could potentially be injured or dead,” explained one EMS member to the students as the scene continued behind him.

After a lot of effort, the passenger was moved to a stretcher and wheeled away to an ambulance, while crews removed the driver’s body and placed her in a body bag.

“A body bag is meant to hold liquids,” stated the EMS member as he shared some of his own horrific experiences with collecting body parts at accident scenes.

After the scene was cleared, students walked over to the hospital where they shuffled into the emergency room. Surgeons came rushing into the room pushing a bed with the passenger covered in vomit and blood, and as they poked needles and tubes into the victim’s body they explained to the students what they were doing.

Masha Scheele Photo

Blood dripped from the tubes onto the hospital floor and suddenly the doors flung open and a woman came in screaming, “Is she okay?”

Nurses and police officers pulled the woman back as she continued crying and screaming. One student sank to the floor and stayed there as the dramatic scene unfolded. Surgeons continued calling out what they were doing and trying everything they could to save the woman’s life, but in the end the passenger of the sedan also didn’t make it.

“Her story ends because somebody else decided to get behind the wheel of their car after drinking,” the students are told.

Students left the room, some looking a little more ashen than others. For lunch they were met by physiotherapists who gave students eye patches to mimic having lost an eye, or tied one arm behind their back, or other disabilities to allow them to experience what it would be like to live life with the aftermath of an accident.

The program is about learning through vivid and emotional experience, from real people and their very real experiences, states the national PARTY program website.

“Back when I started, it was just about drinking and driving, but now it’s also distracted driving, and making smart choices,” said Todd Martens, Protective Services Manager and Fire Chief.

“In my five years here, we haven’t had one high school fatality from drinking and driving. That’s positive, I think the message is getting to the kids,” added Martens.

The goal is for students to leave knowing that they have the power to make the right choice, states the website. The PARTY program ran for three-straight Thursdays in May.