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Coulee Medical Center ER and Walk-In Care

Tragic scene offers lessons for students

 

The drama of a mock car crash commands the rapt attention of students and staff from Lake Roosevelt Jr/Sr High School Friday as real EMTs "rescue" schoolmate Areielle White from a crashed car. - Scott Hunter photo

At a horrific scene in the middle of the school day last Friday, the screams of victims and their mothers twisted the air with an agony many seemed to feel - even though they knew it wasn't real.

Some 200 or more students and staff from Lake Roosevelt High School arrived at the scene at the Nespelem Community Center by bus and crowded near blue tarps held up as a curtain between them and the sight of dead classmates killed in a drunken driving crash.

As the curtain lowered, LR students could see that their friends Kayley Duclos and Tanya Ang were dead and bloody, their bodies some distance from a crunched car and empty beer cans. Areielle White was still trapped in the car and Malcom Carson, his face ashen white, would not long be alive. Driver Devan Black was in shock and denial, yelling at the corpses, "Get up, they're coming!"

The real sirens, on real ambulance and police vehicles, approached after students heard them called out by a real dispatcher, just as they would have been during an actual crash. The real-time aspect of the event required a length of acting and White began to scream, "I can't feel my legs!" as emergency medical technicians arrived to assess each of the victims and firefighters arrived with a Jaws of Life device to tear open the car.

Colville Tribal EMT Archie Dennis performed what the students would later learn was a triage assessment, essentially deciding who could be helped and who couldn't, and in what order.

"Why is he covering my child?" demanded Kayley's mother, Susan Duclos, tears streaming.

Inside the com¥åçmunity center afterward, students heard from professionals who had responded, including tribal emergency medical services worker William.

"We don't want to see any of you spend your last night on a cold stretch of pavement," he said, noting that it is statistically probable that two of them would die before their 21st birthday in an accident.

Tribal Police Detective Mark Duncan explained the hard truth about the physics of a crash. At just 30 miles per hour, a properly-worn seatbelt can reduce the force on your body from about 150 Gs to 20. Fighter pilots pass out at nine, and aortas can tear from hearts as they keep moving forward after the vehicle comes to a sudden stop.

This month alone, he had been to two car crashes, he said. In one, a woman who was not belted in lost her arm as the car rolled over on her. In another, a man was ejected after his car blew a tire. The car rolled on him, killing him instantly.

"If you want to do something selfish, don't wear your seatbelt," Duncan said, noting that the victims would include all those people who care about them, even including the EMTs who had to respond and deal with the aftermath.

The event was organized, just before graduation, by Colville Tribal Police, and sponsored by Sunflower Graphics, The Melody, Trading Post, Jackson's Chevron, Café Espresso and Colville Tribal EMS.

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