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Basalt students organize a mock DUI scenario before prom

Katrina Lewis
Basalt High School
Diana Limongelli bends over and pretends to cry during a mock DUI scenario in the Basalt High School parking lot with local law enforcement officers. Her son, Ben, volunteered to play the deceased student in a pretend car crash for students at Basalt High School.

On Monday, roughly 500 Basalt High School students gathered to watch a student-organized, mock DUI scenario with local first responders.

The scenario lasted about 30 minutes, and first responders from the Basalt Police Department, Roaring Fork Fire Rescue Authority and Classic Air pretended to administer lifesaving aid to a handful of students with fake blood and wounds across their bodies.

Gage Reuss is a senior at Basalt High and president of the student council.

Earlier this year, Reuss told his fellow council members that he wanted to host a mock DUI scenario similar to one he saw during his freshman year.

The mock presentation was "something that obviously stayed with me for the last three years," Reuss said. "So I thought it was going to be super helpful for even some of the younger students at Basalt.”

The student council organized the event to impress upon their classmates the serious consequences that may follow the decision to drink and drive.

Reuss said it really hit home for him and “touches the heartstrings a little bit about the dangers of distracted driving or the dangers of drunk driving."

Local first responders attended to the student volunteers in the school parking lot as if they were on a real scene.

Jason Hegberg, the school resource officer with the Basalt Police Department, described how each of the different agencies played a role.

“The Pitkin County Coroner’s even up here for the tail end of it, where we placed the 'deceased' student in a body bag and carried him off to really just kind of drive that point home that, hey, this is what this looks like when it happens,” said Hegberg, who coordinated with the student council to help develop the scenario.

With prom coming up in a few weeks, Hegberg said the presentation is intended to shock them.

The student council even enlisted the mother of the student pretending to be deceased to act out her emotional response to the scenario.

“It’s really just giving them some awareness,” said Hegberg. “It’s a little bit of a show so they can see all the moving parts of what it looks like on a crash like this. So we want them to think about the possibility that this could happen.”

Ninth graders at Basalt receive some instruction in their health class during a unit about drugs and alcohol.

But by the time they are upperclassmen going to prom, it has been a few years since they’ve had any formal instruction on the subject.

Amelia Allen is a junior at Basalt High School, and she said the presentation was a harsh reminder of what can happen.

“I think, at first, it was hard to watch because you know the kids out there who are laying–acting dead out there on the ground,” said Allen. “It helps to know that it was fake, but it was still really real because it happens.”

Three years ago, Basalt High student Tyler Ribich was killed in a drunken-driving accident in Missouri Heights.

Another student, Emma Narby, said her older sister's emotions were unstable after Ribich's death.

“Watching what happened on the mock accident and seeing what it was actually like for the people involved was kind of eye-opening and made me realize how dangerous it can be to actually drive while intoxicated,” said Narby.

Allen said the scenario brought back a lot of those memories.

“We learn about that stuff in health class,” said Allen. “But I think things like this, where you can visually see your friends and actually see people you know and the whole community involved, actually have a lasting impact.”

Hegberg said these intense scenarios are intended to shock students, but it can’t be the only way educators engage kids in these conversations.

“I think if we were doing it all the time, I think the kids would shut it off,” said Hegberg. “And with the student council feeling like this is what was needed, we felt like if we’re gonna do this, we’re gonna do it in a manner that shocks them and brings home a point.”

He said that most of his time in the school is spent very differently.

“I mean, most of my time in the school is just sitting down and having chats with them and being very transparent to them,” said Hegberg. “That you know, I know what it’s like to drink too much. Those kinds of things I went through four decades ago now.”

In the next few weeks before prom, the Basalt Police Department will return with DUI goggles to show kids how people's vision is impaired when they are driving under the influence of alcohol.

Reuss reminds his fellow classmates to call a trusted adult if they need a safe ride home.