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Mock crash brings out the grief


Senior Olivia Arnold plays the part of the driver guilty of texting and causing death and injuries in a horrific scenario staged for the benefit of Lake Roosevelt Junior/Senior High School students, to show them what really happens after the crash. The event was put on last Friday by the Colville Tribal Police Department. - Scott Hunter photo

The horrific scene was only revealed after five buses of students and staff from Lake Roosevelt Junior/Senior High School arrived and had lined up behind yellow police tape to witness a disturbing mock scenario.

When Colville Tribal Police staff lowered the black plastic, students saw the aftermath of an accident caused by a driver who had been texting.

For several minutes, a crying Olivia Arnold wandered in a daze amid the carnage she had caused, while another victim screamed obscenities, blaming her for the unfathomable hurt to his loved ones.

Students heard the call-outs on police scanners as they would happen. First police, then first responders, came down SR-155 to the Nespelem Community Center, playing the roles with which many of them are all too familiar.

The living were tended to first, the dead were covered up.

Among students watching, only a few appeared to be taking it lightly; most were engrossed and many seemed bothered.

In a "debriefing" later inside the community center, some wept a little at the intensity, including Principal Mark Herndon and his daughter, who had come upon a similar scene in real life one year earlier. Herndon had administered CPR for 45 minutes, while ordering his daughter to remain in the car to shield her from seeing too much. The emotional wounds are still fresh, just as they often are for emergency personnel who attend to victims at such scenes.

About half the student body attended the mock scene, Herndon said, a proportion he guessed had something to do with the festival underway in Grand Coulee. But it was also a reflection of many who had been bothered by a similar enactment a year ago and didn't want to go through it again, Arnold said later.

She said even the actors involved felt the impact.

The event is put on by the Colville Tribal Emergency Management Services and supported by several local businesses.

[This story has been corrected to reflect that the event was sponsored by Colville Tribal Emergency Management Services.]

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