[Nameplate] Overcast ~ 46°F  
High: 63°F ~ Low: 43°F
Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Fatality drills in reality of mortality

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Putnam County Operation Life emergency workers Chris Query (left) and Chris Lien (right) assist Sheriff's Deputy Mike Johnson as they attempt to revive Greencastle High School student Kullen Edberg during a mock disaster drill on school grounds Monday. Edberg portrayed a student who had died in a two-vehicle accident on her way with three others to prom.
As the tarp was pulled, several students gripped what appeared to be fresh-cut grass on the hill east of Greencastle High School.

Underneath the tarp were two mangled cars as a result of a vehicle accident in the high school parking lot.

GHS student Camron Humphries lay motionless on the hood of one of the vehicles as Andy Weatherford attempted to get his attention.

Students in the back of the vehicle that had been hit were screaming as they were clinging to life, hoping someone would respond and let them out.

Then, the real action began.

Putnam County dispatch called out an automobile accident at the high school involving students heading to prom and other students celebrating in their own way with alcohol.

Agency upon agency, including Putnam County Sheriff's Dept. officials, Greencastle Police Dept. officials, firefighters from Greencastle Fire Dept., Putnam County Operation Life officials, and Air-Evac helicopter ambulance all emerged to the scene, sirens blaring, ready for action.

The Jaws of Life were used to pry open the second vehicle as law enforcement officials talked with a stumbling, presumably intoxicated Weatherford, who was eventually handcuffed and placed in a squad car after failing a field sobriety test conducted by GPD.

The scenario was part of a mock disaster drill set up by the Putnam County Safe School Committee in addition to several law enforcement and various other emergency agency officials.

Planning for the drill began in the fall of 2006 as officials from Operation Life approached the Safe Schools Committee hoping to construct the event in order to increase student awareness about emergency services and to stress safety during prom.

Greencastle's prom is scheduled for Saturday.

Weatherford portrayed the "intoxicated driver" of one of the vehicles.

Humphries and Kullan Edberg were "deceased" students in the scenario while GHS students Zach Grammel, Nathaniel Lien and Mary Michael all portrayed injured students.

GHS student Nick Tongret also portrayed the Grim Reaper, hovering over the student victims and touching the deceased victims when they died.

As students watched the scenario play out, the dead students were placed in body bags by emergency officials under the direction of Putnam County Coroner Thomas Miller and transported away.

Lien was airlifted from the scene while the remaining students were transported away from the scene by Operation Life.

As the event played out, emcee and Indiana State Police Trooper Charlie Boller communicated with emergency officials on the scene while the students were able to hear every word through a sound system provided by Greencastle Music.

Safe School Committee member and Greencastle Middle School Principal Shawn Gobert said he believed the drill was a success.

"It looked to me to be well-received by the students," Gobert said. "I thought it was realistic. I thought it was very eye-opening."

Following the action-packed part of the drill, the students huddled into the GHS auditorium to listen to the dangers that can be present during prom weekend and the safety precautions they should take.

Boller began the presentation. He asked a handful of the students who participated in the drill what it felt like.

"I just had to tell myself, 'it's not real. It's not going to happen,'" Weatherford said. "But it's still mind-blowing."

Boller asked Lien what it felt like to be in the helicopter.

"I thought it would be fun, but it wasn't fun at all," Lien said, referring to how he was strapped down in the helicopter, unable to move.

Bookwalter then addressed the students, again stressing safety.

He talked about two recent alcohol-related cases his office had dealt with, both of which had deadly results.

"When this happens, it just doesn't end on the pavement," Bookwalter said. "We don't expect anyone here to not have fun (at prom). But be safe."

Central Elementary sixth-grade teacher Shannon Nees then addressed the students, talking about an accident her daughter was in on her way to the prom, another accident that resulted in death.

Following Nees' turn with the students, Hamilton Center representative Bill Nunn spoke about human response to loss or severe injury.

Boller then again stressed to the students the importance of safety this weekend.

"We have a vested interest in you," he told the students. "You are important to us.

"We will never know if we did good here today. We will only know if it didn't work."

Michael, who was the last student removed from the wreckage, said she initially thought acting out the part would be exciting.

It was only after the drill began that she realized how serious it was.

"I thought I was going to be excited, but it's real scary," Michael said. "It's so realistic. It's powerful. I hope people listened.

The vehicles were provided by Seniours Auto Salvage. One was from an actual accident in the county involving alcohol and high school students. The vehicle was only recently released as evidence from PCSD and Putnam County Prosecutor Tim Bookwalter.

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: