Even with multiple emergency service personnel on scene, Campbell County High School student Olivia Hembree still “died” in the mock traffic accident held at the high school last week.
The cooperative effort of CCHS and local rescue agencies was aimed at reaching juniors and seniors on a personal level before prom, warning them of the dangers associated with drinking and driving.
Around 9 a.m. last Friday, two vehicles were staged to appear they had been in a collision. As the student body at CCHS filed outside and stood behind the yellow caution tape, a mock accident and fatality unfolded before their eyes.
The Tennessee Highway Patrol secured the area as the Campbell County Rural Fire Service and LaFollette Rescue Squad arrived at the front entrance of the high school.
Firemen prepared hoses in case of fire and rescue workers prepared machines to cut open the metal frames of the vehicles involved.
CCHS teacher Sandy Wilson played the mother of the Hembree. She ran onto the scene screaming in horror at the accident and her fake daughter’s fate. Wilson was restrained by a THP trooper, but her voice still resonated in the air long after she disappeared in the crowd.
Time seemingly stood still as the windows and doors were taken off of the vehicles and the girls inside were loaded on stretchers.
Cheyenne Thomas, Tamara Lanbert and Hembree are students in the high school drama class. They were each doused with a red, blood-like liquid and they batted their eyes in dizzy awareness of the crash.
Thomas and Lanbert were taken out of the vehicle one by one, loaded on a stretcher and secured in the ambulance and UT Lifestar helicopter that had landed on the scene.
Hembree was taken out through the roof of her vehicle. She was laid on the asphalt and given CPR. The rescue workers looked at each other in dismay before covering Hembree with a white sheet and moving on to the other girls whose lives were still possible to save.
After the three girls were removed from the vehicles and loaded into the necessary emergency vehicles, the crowd dispersed into the auditorium.
As the student body took their seats, a coffin was visible on the center of the stage. Hembree’s photo sat atop the coffin as Wilson took the stage to tell the students she had lost her only daughter.
“The magnitude of this performance will make a difference in these student’s lives,” said CCHS Principal Robbie Heatherly. “If it keeps one person from drinking and driving then it’s been worth our time.”
LaFollette Rescue Squad Captain Durand Carmany explained to students the danger of driving while talking on the phone or drinking.
His emotional display of personal experience related to the students caused utter silence in the auditorium.
“People die everyday,” said Carmany. “But I promise you if anybody in this county was in a wreck we will do whatever we can to save their lives.”
THP Lieutenant Johnny McDonald reminded the students to wear their seatbelts and above all to not forget the big picture amidst the excitement of prom.
The presentation came to a somber ending with a video funded by the Governor’s Highway Safety office. The video highlighted the deaths of local youth from car accidents.
When the video ended Heatherly told the students to be careful when driving and to not be the one the others go to see at the funeral.