The Stettler Regional Fire Department radio tones went off a little after 1:30 p.m. on June 14, indicating that the crews needed to respond to a single-vehicle collision.
Fortunately, in this case, the radio was calling crews to a mock scene for the benefit of the Wm E. Hay 2023 grad class, not an actual emergency.
It was a rainy Wednesday afternoon when the Grade 12 students were plucked out of their classes early and directed to the school parking lot. Outside, a vehicle waited under a blue tarp, the subject of much speculation throughout the morning. Deputy fire chief Etienne Brugman, dressed in firefighter’s bunker gear, awaited the class outside as well.
Once everyone was outside, Brugman read the scenario out; a trio of youth had left a party at the Summer Village of Rochon Sands and a collision ensued due to a combination of alcohol and distracted driving; one passenger was ejected, one was trapped, and one was considered walking wounded.
After he finished reading the scenario, the tarp was pulled from the vehicle, revealing a badly damaged SUV.
Dispatch set off the radio tones, and two Stettler Regional Fire Department engines, a Stettler and District Ambulance Association ambulance and an RCMP cruiser pulled onto the scene and set to work.
Ambulance crews immediately assessed the passenger who had been ejected, a grad by the name of Adam. A blanket over his unmoving body signified that he did not survive the incident.
The walking wounded, who was the driver of the vehicle, a grad by the name of Abi, was assessed by ambulance crews before being placed in the back of the RCMP vehicle by Cst. Ben Witmer, the school’s School Resource Officer.
Meanwhile, the members of the Stettler Regional Fire Department went to work on extricating the final grad from the vehicle.
The class was able to watch as the roof of the SUV and a pair of its doors were removed and the grad, Ivy, was extricated onto a spineboard and moved to the waiting ambulance.
Before the class was able to go inside and dry off, in a sombre moment, the Stettler Funeral Home drove onto the scene with a hearse and removed Adam from the scene.
The class was then shepherded into the Performing Arts Centre (PAC) by teachers Darren Fleischhacker and Alicia Kneeland-Teasdale.
Inside the darkened PAC, the students waited for the next part of the presentation to begin. They did not have to wait long; a light came on and Cst. Witmer appeared from the stage, calling out Abi’s name and, upon locating her in the room, arresting her for vehicular manslaughter and distracted driving, handcuffing her in front of her peers and escorting her backstage.
After Witmer and Abi left the stage, a representative from the Stettler Independent emerged from the darkness and read off a news bulletin regarding the collision and the arrest before disappearing into the darkness once again.
Following the media representative, the first responders starting with the ambulance crew each took their turns at the microphone, talking about their roles on an incident scene and the impact such scenes have on their own mental health.
After the last first responder withdrew back into the darkness, the lights were again dimmed, the curtains were opened and a coffin was wheeled to the front of the stage before the lights came back fully on. A representative from the funeral home then spoke about their role when a death happens, such as from a collision, while two colleagues stood by the coffin.
When they left the stage, the coffin was left in place and Adam’s “mother” entered the light, talking about how the loss had affected her and the family. Kneeland-Teasdale portrayed the mother.
Ivy then wheeled herself onto the stage in a wheelchair, talking about the loss of her friend and how she may never walk again.
Finally, Abi took to the stage, saying that despite the fact she was “lucky,” having survived the incident with barely a scratch, her life would forever be changed with one friend dead and another paralyzed at her hand.
After Abi’s monologue, the first responders returned to the stage with the message “Congratulations on your graduation, but don’t put us to work.”
Before concluding the hour-long presentation, a video put together by Mothers Against Drunk Driving featuring the song Untitled by Simple Plan was shown.