Shelbyville Daily Union

April 12, 2014

Mock accident drives home message

VALORIE EVERSOLE - Daily Union Editor
Shelbyville Daily Union

SHELBYVILLE, IL. —

The screech of tires -- the crunch of metal ... two school buses pull away to reveal a head-on collision involving high schoolers on Prom night. Sirens wailed as law enforcement, rescue workers, and fire department arrived on the scene.

The scenario played before Shelbyville high school students, staff, and parents Friday afternoon. It may have been a staged accident scene, but the responses were real.

One student "died" in the accident; another is critically injured. One distraught parent had to face the death of his son. Two students were arrested for DUI, aggravated DUI; alcohol consumption by a minor, illegal transportation of alcohol, and other charges that could punish them with many years in prison and return to society with the haunting guilt and stigma for the rest of their lives.

Shelbyville High School Driver's Education instructor Mark Munch, with the help of teachers Greg Reynolds and Holly Cunnngham, planned the scenario.

"I hope it makes a big enough impact on the kids to keep them from distracted driving," Munch said. "Not only drinking and driving, but also texting, eating, driving with pets on their laps - anything that can distract them."

"If it stops at least one kid from making a wrong choice, it (mock accident) has done the job," he added.

Munch said he had no problem getting students to act in the mock accident.

"A lot of kids wanted to do it," he said.

As the scene played before them, some students were visibly shaken and crying. All were somber.

Just rehearsing for the mock accident raised a lot of emotions, according to Junior Carissa Jennings who portrayed one of the Prom goers coming upon the scene.

"I felt devastated and shocked. All I could think was that's our friends. It was very realistic just rehearsing it," Jennings said.

After the demonstration, Jennings received a hug from her father Bryan, a firefighter who was also part of the scene.

Chase Jackson, who "died" at the scene, described being taken away in a hearse as "creepy".

"This was something serious. That's why we wanted to do this," Jackson said.

 "The scariest part was when Coach (Kevin) Kramer charged at me," said Luke McConnell, who was arrested and charged with aggravated DUI resulting in a death.

Illinois State Police trooper Jeff Denning spoke to the audience after the scene. He said, "In a small community, people know what you did and facing those people and family of the deceased day after day, year after year, is worse than any prison time you serve."

Assisting in the mock accident were Shelbyville Police, Shelby County Sheriff's Department, Illinois State Police, Shelbyville Fire Department and Rescue Squad, Shelby Ambulance, and Lockart-Green Funeral Home.

Student performers were Chase Jackson, Holly Boarman, Luke McConnell, Ali Anderson, Carissa Jennings, and Matt Overbeck.