Viburnum 'mock accident' - a reminder of what could happen

Amelia Morton plays a severely injured young woman who is transported from the scene by Air Evac.

The students at Viburnum High School got a grim reminder Friday, May 18,  that tragedy can strike at even the best of times.

A “mock accident,” using students as actors in a head-on collision, was staged at the school by a number of agencies, including the school administration, the Viburnum Police Department, the Quad County Fire Department, the Iron County Ambulance Service, the Missouri Highway Patrol, the Iron County Sheriff’s Department, and Air Evac medical helicopter service.

Students had an opportunity to witness first-hand what transpires at the scene of such an accident, what are the duties of the various entities involved, and perhaps got a taste of how such an accident is almost always the result of  poor choices.

Highway Patrolman Todd Erpenbach addressed the students in an assembly following the presentation and told the students that 99.9 percent of them would be involved in a traffic accident sometime in their lives.

“The Highway Patrol keeps track of statistics – that’s our job,” Trooper Erpenbach said.  “In 2017, 930 people died on Missoiuri roadways. What is the population of Viburnum, about 600?  So, basically, more than the entire population of your hometown dies every year in traffic crashes in this state.

“This year to date we have lost 263 people on Missouri roadways in traffic accidents.

“Every one of those crashes is pre

ventable. How? We follow the law. We know the difference between right and wrong. We don’t drink and drive. We put the cell phone down. We buckle up. It’s simple.”

The fact such accidents are preventable is why it is so frustrating for officers and emergency personnel.

“You guys are young,” he told the students. “You have a lot of good times ahead of you. Graduation comes up in a week.  That’s a good day.  You are moving on with your life.

“Your decisions matter. Not only are you responsible for the people in your car, but you are also responsible for the lives of people traveling the roadways with you.

“Here is the kicker: You can be doing everything right, but you can still get hit by someone who made a poor decision.

“Traffic accident deaths are sudden,” he said.  “Someone leaves to go to the store, someone leaves to go to school, someone leaves to go to work, and they don’t come back. No one expects that.”

“Your community cares about you. They care about you or they wouldn’t have done this in the first place. We care about you because we don’t like going to scenes like this.

“I’ve been to hundreds of them, hundreds.  I don’t ever want to be in a position where I have to come out to Viburnum and investigate a traffic accident like this and have to go to your mom and dad’s house to knock on that front door at 1:30 in the morning to give them the news.

“I’ve done that so many times in my 17 years as a State Trooper. You look a mom in the eyes and tell them that her child has just been killed in a car crash – that is the worst thing I can do as a trooper.  That is why I take this so seriously.”

Dr. Clay LaRue, principal at Viburnum High School, said he was appreciative of the entities involved in the job of staging the mock accident.

“I think it went really well,” LaRue said. “The kids were receptive and hopefully got a little something out of it.  Everybody did a great job and it went off without a hitch.”