Pierz teens get a dose of reality; experience the consequences of bad choices
By Terry Lehrke, News Editor
Pierz Healy High junior Ben Boser didn’t move or say a word — but among the screams and sirens, his message was the loudest — impaired or distracted driving kills people.
If they are lucky, teenagers will never see a friend taken away in a body bag by hearse for any reason — especially not due to an accident caused by their own, or someone else’s, bad choices.
Wednesday, Pierz teens saw Boser wrapped up and taken away by Shelley Funeral Home Directors Kyle LeMieur and Tim Johnson. But the teenagers were indeed lucky, in that Boser was simply one of a cast of characters recreating a fatal car accident.
Boser was the only fatality taken away in a hearse, but the high schoolers also saw the dramatic rescues of two other peers and the arrest of another.
Before the mock car crash, Healy High School Principal Karrie Boser told the students that each of them would react differently to the event. And that each needed to respect their peers’ reactions.
Pierz senior Alex Julich would tell Morrison County Sheriff Deputy Jason McDonald that he only had about six drinks. He played the part of the driver responsible for the accident and had two passengers, when he hit another vehicle head-on.
McDonald would give Julich field sobriety tests before handcuffing and arresting him.
One passenger, senior Olivia Zajac’s character, received minor injuries, but junior Megan Boser had to be extracted from the vehicle by the Pierz Fire Department, using the jaws of life and airlifted away from the scene.
In the other car, junior Liza Stangl was taken away by ambulance and junior Jon Fuhrman played a victim with minor injuries.
Responding to the first call that there had been an accident were Pierz First Response team members, the Pierz Police Department, the Morrison County Sheriff’s Department, the Minnesota State Patrol, a Gold Cross Ambulance crew, a crew from North Memorial Aircare, Morrison County Attorney Brian Middendorf, Morrison County Chaplain Gregg Valentine and finally, staff from Shelley Funeral Chapel.
Valentine told the students, “First of all, we love you … you are the treasure of Morrison County. Every single one of you is an important life. I know that probably the hardest part of my job is telling your mom and dad that you will never come home again.”
Pierz Police Chief Eric Hanneken reiterated the message about not driving under the influence, buckling up and not texting while driving, but cautioned that other drivers may be the cause of an accident.
“In such a fast-paced world, accidents will happen,” he said.
Pointing at the law enforcement and emergency responders, he said, “The staff behind me has to go to the scenes … Nothing good comes out of an accident where somebody loses their life.”
Morrison County Sheriff Michel Wetzel was a bit more direct in talking to the students.
“I have some very valuable advice for prom night, graduation night or any other night — don’t be stupid. It’s that simple,” he said.
“You’ve got a choice to make, you’ve heard it 100 times, and if you make a stupid choice it can catch up to you,” said the sheriff.
“I’ve been doing this for just shy of 30 years. I’ve been to hundreds of accidents. In all that time I can think of two dead bodies that I actually unbuckled. Every other dead body was out of the car, out in the ditch, in the back seat, somewhere other than buckled in their seat,” Wetzel said. “Wear your seat belt and don’t be stupid.”
Middendorf said he was fascinated by the mock crash event. His job takes place in an office and in the courtroom, prosecuting those that have caused an accident in which someone was killed.
In these cases, the families and friends of the defendant and the deceased plead with the judge for leniency or justice, depending upon which side of the courtroom they sit.
“I don’t want to see you on either side of that courtroom,” said Middendorf. “Have fun summer, but also be safe.”
Jessica Janski, Pierz Healy High School counselor, coordinated the event and has held a community meeting each month since January.
Students involved in “Students Against Destructive Decisions” (SADD) took a lead role in the event that was planned with cooperation from Jeff Jelinski, Morrison County’s emergency management coordinator and representatives from each branch of law enforcement, first responders and the fire department.
Jelinski said one thing he always notices during these events, is how the students pay attention and don’t goof off. It is a sobering experience, he said.
Prom at Pierz Healy High School is Saturday, May 5.
Pierz Schools Supt. George Weber said before students enter the building for prom, they must submit to a portable breath test administered by law enforcement to check for alcohol. Once inside, students will stay until midnight and are not allowed to leave and re-enter.