Darren Doyle, story and photos:
Although it wasn’t a real scenario, it was a situation that hit far too close to home than onlookers and participants would ever want to experience during the 2017 Mock Crash at Edmonson County High School.
The event is an acted out scene of tragedy as high school students play the roles of those injured in a serious car accident as it is happening. The fake accident is caused by impaired driving of a student on prom night and has devastating consequences. The heartbreaking event is presented every other year to Edmonson County High School juniors and seniors around prom time and is coordinated by the Youth Service Center, local emergency personnel, school officials, and several other volunteers.
In this year’s crash, senior Daniel Caudill played the role of a drunk driver with student passengers Maddie Cline, Caleb Skaggs, and Abby Alexander. Local teacher Leeann Pierce who is actually close to 8 months pregnant, was the driver in the second vehicle. In the performance, she survived the crash, but her baby did not.
ECHS students Madison Alexander and Kailie Love portrayed students who first arrived at the scene. They called 911 and stayed with the victims throughout the ordeal, giving them comfort and support.
Local emergency personnel used the actual local dispatch emergency radio frequency as they would in a real life situation as KSP, the Sheriff’s Office, Brownsville Police, Brownsville Fire Department, Edmonson County JAWS, Edmonson EMS, and Air EVAC were all dispatched to the scene while they performed actual emergency procedures.
This year, Daniel Caudill was arrested for driving while under the influence and was charged with murder as Mrs. Pierce lost her unborn child and senior Maddie Cline was killed in the fake crash.
Morgan Esters, Edmonson County Youth Service Center Coordinator, was in charge of organizing this year’s event and she discussed the impact of the mock crash.
"We do this as a preventive measure around the fun activity times, with the drugs, drinking, and parties," she said. "Maybe they (the kids) can see what can happen if they do that. I think with the looks on their faces and the dead silence you hear, there's an automatic impact. Every year there's a different situation or scenario and I think this year will be very impactful for the kids."
Trooper Terry Alexander was the first to arrive at the staged event and one of the first discoveries he made was that his daughter, Abby, was seriously injured. Abby was actually loaded into the Air EVAC helicopter and flown away from the scene.
Edmonson EMS Director Keith Sanders credited the students and all emergency personnel for their performances and efforts in the production while discussing the lasting effects that bad decisions can have on many different lives.
Caudill said although he doesn’t drink, he said he had a hard time realizing that the scenario was only a performance. He was actually handcuffed, placed under arrest, and put in the back of a deputy sheriff’s car.
Several students in the crowd today wiped tears and bowed their heads as the performance seemed so real. Students acting in the production were dressed in torn prom clothes and wore makeup that was so close to real, it was actually disturbing.
Sheriff Shane Doyle thanked the students for the attention and for taking the event seriously, while conveying the fact that even experienced law enforcement are affected by the event, too.
"You don't understand how real it feels for us," Doyle said as he addressed the crowd. "When we're out here and we've got people screaming, it goes from being just a scenario to 'we're at work.' What you don't see is what we take home with us."
A quiet group of juniors and seniors left the football field as the impact of the performed tragedy took hold.
Esters publicly thanked everyone who made the event possible: