ALBANY — Albany High School student Kari’gan Kinchen, 16, lay lifeless and bloody atop a wrecked vehicle as her classmates watched.
Kinchen was participating in a mock crash Thursday put on by Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center and the State Police, who towed two wrecked cars to the high school for the students to use during the exercise.
When Logan Broussard, who portrayed the driver who caused the fatal crash, called out Kinchen’s name, it became painfully clear the teenager had “died” after being thrown from the vehicle.
Albany High School students acted out the fatal crash in front of their peers, emphasizing the dangers of drinking and driving, the importance of wearing seat belts and the emotional suffering families endure when their loved ones are killed in car accidents.
“These kids are the ones who are about to start driving or who have just gotten their license,” said Jared Sandifer, public information officer with State Police Troop A. “They don’t understand the consequences of drinking and driving, texting and driving, or (not) wearing seat belts.”
Sandifer said that by having students act out the mock crash — which was the result of drinking while driving — the students can better understand the realities of car accidents.
Sandifer said he hopes students understand the importance of making good decisions when they’re behind the wheel. He said he also wanted students to see firsthand how decisions have lifelong consequences.
“It was really intense,” said Berkley Martin, a junior, who watched from the sidelines as firemen extracted one of the student actors, all members of Students Against Destructive Decisions, from a vehicle after it was hit by another student actor who had been drinking at a party.
“It really showed them what would happen,” Martin said of the students drinking and driving. “It was kind of scary.”
As Kinchen listened to the sounds of the police, emergency medical technicians, the coroner and others who arrived at the scene, fiction suddenly felt like reality.
“I felt bad for the people in front of me watching this,” Kinchen said. “It’s just crazy how fast that can happen.”
Carolyn McCallister, 15, who played a victim with a minor injury, agreed and said she hadn’t given much thought to how many people can be affected in a “split second.”
“It was horrible,” said Kinchen’s mother, Dana Kinchen, as she learned of the news of her daughter from Livingston Parish sheriff’s Detective Trevor Sterling, who played the role of the detective.
“I never want to go through that,” she said.
Our Lady of the Lake trauma surgeon Dr. Stewart Cayton told students that what they witnessed during the mock crash is a scene “that gets played out a lot, and it’s not by actors, but it happens to real people.”
He urged students not to become a statistic.
“It takes .2 seconds from looking at your cellphone to be in a situation just like this,” Stewart said.
Numerous state and local agencies joined the State Police for the event, including Our Lady of the Lake Trauma Center, Albany Police Department, Acadian Ambulance and the Livingston Parish Coroner’s Office.
The program, which has been held at several schools in Troop A’s nine-parish jurisdiction, is an effort to reduce the number of underage DWIs, serious injury crashes and fatal crashes.
The program, called “Consequences of Impact,” is a reinforcement activity promoted through the Sudden Impact Program offered by State Police and Our Lady of the Lake Hospital Trauma Center.