Freshman Impact: Caught in the moment
A deadly crash occurred behind the Wall Community Center on Wednesday, April 25. The crash was the result of a drunk driver hitting a suburban full of young people. The crash sent seven to the hospital, one to the mortuary and the driver to jail.
“I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry,” were the words uttered over and over by Wall senior Alexis Billings who was driving a jeep that had hit a suburban full of her friends. When the 911 call came in, freshmen students from Wall, Philip and Kadoka listened as Samra Trask, who was first upon the accident, described the scene to the dispatcher. Nine-one-one dispatched the South Dakota Highway Patrol, local Deputies from Wall, Fire Departments from Wall, Interior and Philip and the Wall and Rapid City ambulances along with Life Flight.
The Freshman Impact: Caught in the moment drug and alcohol awareness program consists of multiple learning stations for students ranging from a course simulating drunk driving to a presentation showing what happens in a rollover if you are not wearing your seatbelt and a mock accident.
The National Guard Counter Drug Program from Rapid City brought a climbing wall and a OH 58 Kiowa helicopter for students to experience getting high on life, not on drugs.
Game, Fish and Parks explained the importance of wearing a life jacket and protective gear and not drinking while out on the water.
The Wall, Philip and Interior fire departments gave mock demonstrations on how they extricate people from wreckages.
The Wall Ambulance Service then showed how a patient is strapped to a backboard and loaded into an ambulance.
The Front Porch Coalition talked to the students about suicide prevention. Presentations were also given on texting and driving and synthetic drugs.
These learning stations were taught by local law enforcement, fire and rescue personnel, and people that have been impacted by the effects of driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol.
South Dakota Highway Patrol troopers showed students slides of fatal wrecks while Trooper Slade Ross, who is a restorations officer of crash scenes, explained to students the importance of respecting vehicles and others. Ross emphasized the reasons to pay attention to the road and others, along with what happens if speeding and to be observant of road conditions. Ross asked, “Is there anything in this world you need to be an hour early for?” He then went on to say this is why we are here today, all the slides are of people who killed themselves for stupid reasons.
As students proceeded to the mock accident, screams of pain, crying and sirens in the back ground could be heard.
EMTs, firefighters, troopers and paramedics accessed the most critical and the Life Flight helicopter and a hearse were then called to the accident.
After the last victim was loaded into the ambulance and the fatality placed in a body bag, students were asked to line up two-by-two and proceed through the Honor Guard, back into the community center. When the students entered into the grand hall they were met by a coffin with a senior graduation picture placed on the closed lid. Next to the coffin stood Bradey Sudbeck, Kadoka, the young man who was to graduate from high school in May. He stood there with his head bowed because he was the one who was in the coffin.
Judge Bob Mandel, Rapid City presided over the vehicular homicide trial of Alexis Billings. Prosecutor Roxi Erickson argued that the maximum sentence should be handed down. Erickson said, “She was the one who got behind the wheel after drinking. She was the one who drove too fast and ran a stop sign. She caused the death of a passenger and left one in critical condition.” Your honor it’s not okay to drink and drive, its criminal. Erickson ended her argument on that note.
Dan Van Gorp argued on behalf of his client. Alexis is just a child herself, she is only 18 years old. If given a 30 year term in prison she will be 48 when she gets out. Van Gorp stated, “She is sorry, she will do anything that the court orders, but take pity on her, she is sorry.”
Mandel informed Billings that she intentionally and illegally became intoxicated and got behind the wheel. There are consequences for what you did and I sentence you to eight years behind bars.
Actors for the mock accident were Cheyenne Deering, Libbi Sykora, Billings, Kailey Rae Sawvell, Anna Kitterman, Kale Lytle, Ryder Wilson from the Wall High School and Tess Byrd, Sean Ireland and Sudbeck with Kadoka High School.
As the SDHP troopers said, “If this program keeps just one of our teens from making a wrong decision, it is worth all of the time and money invested.”