Learning a life lesson: Demonstration drives home the point of driving sober, paying attention to traffic

At around 9:30 am, Friday, a “fatal crash” that also sent an 11-year-old boy to an area hospital with life-threatening injuries happened near North Lamar High School.

North Lamar High School and the City of Paris police department were the first to the scene of the crash between a late-model Honda Fit and an older Lincoln Town Car that claimed the life of a high school senior and caused the injured boy to be airlifted to a hospital by Airevac.

Within seconds of the police arriving, the area was swarming with personnel from ambulances, fire trucks from both Paris and Reno and a Fry-Gibbs hearse. Whitaker’s Towing showed up to tow away the wrecked vehicles.

“We have a pulse,” shouted one of the EMT personnel as she hovered over the child who was bruised, bloody and unconscious.

The names of the victims are being held pending notification of the parents, but one witness saw a woman run, screaming toward the scene. Other witnesses to the crash said it was horrific.

The fatality in the crash was a passenger in the Lincoln, which turned out in front of the Honda, police said.

The driver of the Lincoln, another high school senior, appeared to be inebriated and was given a field sobriety test by Paris police officer Samuel Flores, then arrested and taken to jail.

Around 250 people, all juniors and seniors, saw the aftermath of the crash, but none were questioned by police.

That is because It was all part of a mock accident production staged by area emergency personnel to stress to the students the importance of making the right decisions as they celebrate transitioning to college or the workforce.

“As you look ahead to graduation parties this is an unfortunate reality of poor choices young people can make,” said Mark Keith, the North Lamar principal. “I want you to think about this because we want you to be on this planet for a long time. Your parents want you to, too.

“Think about this when you attend parties,” he said. “Your decisions affect not just you, but a multitude of people.”

Chad Graves, of the Paris Fire Department, helped plan the day’s lesson.

“It was a dramatization of what could unfortunately happen,” he said. “It was to remind the kids of the consequences of drunken driving or distracted driving.”

This was the first mock accident production in the county since 2019 when Covid-19 shut down large gatherings, he said.

The last mock accident dramatization at North Lamar was in 2018, said school district nurse Justine Wideman, who helped students prepare for their roles in the “crash scene.”

“It went as planned,” she said.

The high school students who were involved in setting the scene were most all theater students at North Lamar, said Jillian Jones, a senior who played the role of the girl in the body bag.

“They told me my role was the dead girl and I just improv-ed it from there,” said Jones, who was in the state-title winning North Lamar one-act play.

Manning Fuller, 11, who is a fifth-grade student at Bailey Intermediate and son of North Lamar Assistant Principal Patrick Fuller, played the child taken to the hospital.

“I was thrown out of the back seat window and was unconscious,” he said of his role in the mock accident production. “They told me to lay on the ground in an uncomfortable position.”

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