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Park City High School seniors witness lifelike reenactment to curb drunk driving

Heather Sims

The sounds of sirens and an AirMed helicopter landing on Monitor Drive may have alarmed Park City residents last Friday morning, but it was all part of a simulation designed to teach students about the dangers of drunk driving.

Seniors at Park City High School were unaware of what they would witness when they gathered for an assembly the morning of Friday, May 26. It was part of a docudrama hosted by the high school parent teacher student organization, to stage a reenactment of a drunk driving accident.

Kim Abbett, a local parent and PTSO member, coordinated this year’s simulation with local emergency responders and PCHS theater department who performed as the drunk driver and victims in the crash. The entire senior class assembled at the scene.

“They're just sitting in the bleachers. They're all talking and laughing,” said Abbett. “And then the audio comes on, which is an audio recording of the kids at a party. And they're saying, ‘Oh, you shouldn't drink and drive.’ They're like, ‘Oh, it doesn't matter. Let's just go. I'm hungry. Let's call an Uber.’ And the driver says ‘no,’ all that kind of stuff. And then at the end of that there's a big loud crash.”

At this point, the live action simulation began with the tarps pulled from two wrecked vehicles with the student actors inside, including a passenger covered in stage blood hanging out of the windshield on the front of the car.

“When the tarps were pulled off is a huge gap because it was so shocking,” Abbett said. “And the kids get out of the car they start running and trying to see if she’s alive. They really call 911. The police show up. They do a sobriety test on the driver, and arrest him, and drive off with him.”

The Park City Police Department and Park City Fire District dispatched emergency personnel as if the crash happened in real life. And an AirMed helicopter from the University of Utah landed in the parking lot to simulate a life flight extraction of the passenger hit by the drunk driver.

“The fire department comes and they're trying to extract the person they hit from the other car cutting off the door," Abbett said noting that it was all performed in real time. "That took quite a while. They're literally really doing it. It's all training for them, too."

After the ambulance, helicopter, and hearse left the scene, the senior class walked back to the high school for a funeral for the deceased student, played by Kim Abbett’s daughter Lilian, a senior in the school theater program. Student actors Kendall Cannon, Kenny Butz, and J.T. O’Reilly played the roles of the driver and other passengers, and they spoke at the staged funeral about the ways that accidents like this can happen in seconds and change lives forever.

“It was good to feel and understand that this does happen,” said Lilian. “Being a part of it helped me understand that more, because you hear about [tragedies like this] on the news, but it never really affects you.”

Fellow senior Molly-Mae Sims was in the audience and said the entire experience felt very real and left a powerful impression on her and her classmates, many of whom were crying by the end.

“It’s as realistic as they could make it,” said Sims. “They had the AirMed come in, they had fire trucks, they had the ambulance and police. They held a mock funeral afterwards and I think that's what tore a lot of hearts.”

The PTSO puts on this educational event each year just before the senior class graduates. The goal is to drive home the message that drunk driving kills and remind graduating seniors about the consequences of the choices they make as they head out into the world.