‘Every 15 Minutes’ teaches valuable lessons

KENILWORTH — Chief John Zimmerman of the Kenilworth Police Department reported that on Wednesday, May 7, his department, in conjunction with Morristown Hospital, Atlantic Health Care, along with assistance from the Kenilworth Fire and First Aid Departments, and the Brearley School Administration, conducted a program entitled “Every 15 Minutes” at the David Brearley High School.

This emotionally charged two-day program is a real life re-enactment of a driving while intoxicated car crash with fatalities, where Brearley High School students were selected to participate as “actors” in the program.

Professionally filmed, produced and edited, the program covers the lives of the student actors and a social gathering where alcohol is being consumed. The intoxicated students then leave the gathering after drinking several cans of beer, and a short distance away are involved in a head on collision with another car full of students.

The dramatically created accident scene, observed by the junior and senior class students, along with the parents of the actors, shows the real life response of the Police, Fire, First Aid, and Paramedics.

The Kenilworth Police Officers determine that several of the injured are seriously hurt, and summon for the Atlantic Health Care Medevac Helicopter. Fire and first aid personnel tend to the injured, and prepare the most seriously injured for transportation to Morristown Hospital by the Medevac helicopter, which has landed at the high school athletic fields.

The Kenilworth Police went to the homes of two of the student actors killed in the crash and did a “real life” notification that their children had been killed. The parents of the injured were also escorted by Kenilworth Police to Morristown Hospital, where filming of the program continued.

The intoxicated driver was arrested and taken to Kenilworth Police Headquarters, given driving while intoxicated tests, and attended trial that afternoon in the Kenilworth court.

“The intoxicated driver of the vehicle which caused the accident is arrested for drunk driving,” said Zimmerman “and later charged with two counts of criminal homicide death by auto, and the mock trial is held at the Kenilworth Court. After hearing testimony from the victims and witnesses, and victim impact statements read aloud, she pleads guilty to the judge, and receives a sentence of seven years in prison.”

Lt. Dowd of the Kenilworth Police added “to maintain the real life experience that we wanted to keep, the student actors are sequestered from their families and friends overnight after day one, to project the ‘loss’ of them due to the consequences of the accident, such as the injuries and deaths that happened, and the driver being in jail. I don’t think it could get any more realistic than this production.”

The students stayed at a local hotel overnight, chaperoned by several officers and school personnel.

“On day two, the students all reported to school early for the initial viewing of the professional video of the entire event, and also heard from the student actors and finally heard first hand from someone who has lost a close family member to a driving while intoxicated accident ” said Zimmerman. “The emotionally charged program was offered for the first time in Kenilworth, and we plan on doing it again, and by the reactions I saw from those who viewed it and the emotions seen from those that were visibly shaken to crying, the Kenilworth Police certainly knows that the message was presented to show the students the dangers of drinking and driving, and the extreme consequences that occur afterwards.”