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Mock crash dramatizes distracted driving

Lizzy Hensel and Lexi Hinkley-Smith, seniors at Park Rapids Area High School who completed a first responder course this year and qualified to serve as volunteers with the county, help fellow senior Evan Booge, playing the role of a passenger injured in a distracted driving accident during a mock crash presentation Thursday at the school. (Photos by Robin Fish/Enterprise)

High school students from Nevis, Laporte and Park Rapids witnessed a real-time demonstration of an emergency response to a car accident.

The mock crash Thursday afternoon in the north parking lot at Park Rapids Area High School doubled as an educational program for students and a training exercise for local first responders.

Students spattered with fake blood sat in the front seats of two cars that were dramatically arranged to simulate a distracted-driving-related wreck, complete with broken glass and flattened tires.

Among the first emergency personnel to arrive on the scene were several PRAHS students who have trained and qualified as first responders. Also responding at the scene were law enforcement, fire department and ambulance personnel as well as a helicopter.

Tom Vanderwal of Park Rapids, executive director of Greater Northwest Emergency Medical Services in Bemidji, emceed the demonstration, explaining to the audience what the emergency workers were doing at each stage of the procedure.

The rescue played out in real time, with rescuers stabilizing the cars with wooden chucks and firefighters climbing inside the vehicles to help stabilize the head and neck of each crash victim.

Extraction tools, including cutters and spreaders, were used to take the roof and driver's side door off one car, enabling workers to remove the victim without causing further injury. One student was carried on a backboard to the helicopter and flown away before being brought back.

Vanderwal said his agency serves a 12-county area in Northwestern Minnesota, providing training and support for EMS personnel as well as public education services like Thursday's mock crash event.