Story and photo gallery: Mock crash highlights dangers of distracted driving

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PRINCETON – At 1:45 p.m. Thursday, April 27, a notification went out to area emergency services personnel that a crash with injuries had occurred at Highway 95 and 21st Avenue in Princeton.
The crash was just a drill, but the 100-plus Princeton High School students who stood in the 30-degree temperatures in a school parking lot got the message as a handful of their fellow classmates acted out the scenes of the deadly crash during SADD’s (Students Against Destructive Decisions) biannual mock crash.
The horrific sound of crushing metal and breaking glass echoed through the parking lot of Princeton High School over a loud speaker.
A tarp was lifted off two smashed vehicles – one with a girl portraying a bloodied female student apparently deceased and on the hood of the car. Moments later Princeton Police officer Nicole Josephes arrived on scene, followed by Princeton firefighters. Emergency services personnel worked the scene, going through all the steps they would had the crash been real.
The mock crash was designed to be as realistic as possible with the hope that it will have an impact on the students. But unlike mock crashes of the past, the focus of the lesson was different.
Instead of focusing on the dangers of drunken driving, the 2017 mock crash centered around the dangers of distracted driving – specifically texting while driving.
Kris Alderink, SADD adviser, said there’s so much texting and driving among high school students that a change in the focus of the mock crash message seemed appropriate. School administrators and the Princeton Police Department and Princeton Fire Department agreed, which led to green-lighting the distracted driving lesson.
“Put down your phone. That’s the big message,” Alderink said.
A phone call or text message can wait, she said.
“It doesn’t take much to take a life,” Alderink added. “That’s the message we need to get out to the kids.”
Princeton High School Principal Barbara Muckenhirn reminded high school students that with the prom and graduation season upon them, they have so many things to look forward to, including bright futures.
“All it takes is one bad decision for it all to go wrong,” Muckenhirn said.
Like Alderink, Muckenhirn reminded students that they shouldn’t text and drive. Whatever is on the other end of the phone can wait, she said.
The driver of the vehicle that caused the crash, played by Preston Burch, suffered what appeared to be minor injuries and was arrested by a responding state trooper. Burch was handcuffed and placed in the back seat of the trooper’s squad car.
Some mock crash victims had possibly serious injuries, and a North Ambulance helicopter was dispatched.
Firefighters scrambled to extricate victims from a car. Jake Carlson, one of the crash victims, was loaded onto the helicopter and flew off into the Princeton sky.
Megan Anderson played the role of the deceased female who had been ejected from the vehicle and was found on the hood of the car. A hearse from Williams Dingmann Funeral Home arrived on scene. With the help of firefighters, Anderson was placed in a black body bag and then placed on a gurney. The body was then placed in the hearse, which drove off as students quietly looked on.
The mock crash is a true community effort, Alderink said. There was a lot of hard work among many emergency services agencies, organizations and businesses to pull off the mock crash, she said.
It all starts with the SADD group, Alderink said.
“We had a real good group this year,” she said.
Others involved in the mock crash were Hytek Automotive, which provided the vehicles used in the mock crash; Dominos and Subway, which fed participants; Princeton Police; Princeton Fire & Rescue, Minnesota State Patrol; North Memorial Ambulance, which brought in the helicopter; Williams Dingman Funeral home, which provided funeral directors and a hearse; and school administrators.