by Monica Mendoza
21st Space Wing Public Affairs staff writer
PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. — Firefighters from the 21st Space Wing had already draped the body with a white sheet when a woman came running toward the scene. “I want my husband,” she shrieked.
Held back by 21st Security Forces Squadron Airmen, the woman wailed and kicked. Her husband, thrown from the passenger side of a station wagon, was dead. Two others — who had to be removed from a vehicle using a hydraulic rescue tool — were critically injured. One man, bloody and ranting incoherently, was handcuffed and arrested on suspicion of driving while intoxicated.
It was a gruesome scene on Patrick Street near the ball fields on Peterson Air Force Base Nov. 10. It wasn’t real, but it could have been, event organizers said.
They hoped such a mangled scene would leave Airmen with a lasting visual image of the horrors of drinking and driving. The event, hosted by U.S. Northern Command, gave the 21st Space Wing firefighters and security forces an opportunity to practice responding to such a horrific scene.
“It is supposed to be scary and dramatic, but it’s also meant to be educational,” said Army Staff Sgt. Amy Jacobs, NORTHCOM unit prevention leader and event organizer. “It’s also for training.”
Sergeant Jacobs brought the program, Every 15 Minutes, to the base to show Airmen what could happen in a DUI crash. Every 15 Minutes is a national program, initially designed for high school students. Recently, the crash scenario was presented to Soldiers on Fort Carson. This is the first time it was presented on an Air Force base.
“This shows what actually happened when a DUI happens,” said James Forrest Jr., Every 15 Minutes coordinator. Every 15 Minutes gets its name from an old statistic that every 15 minutes someone is hurt in a DUI-related crash. Today, statistics show someone is hurt in a drinking and driving crash every 30 minutes. The graphic visual program was designed by police officers that wanted to stress the dangers of drinking and driving.
“The goal is that when you see this, you will not get behind the wheel and drink and drive,” Mr. Forrest said.
In Colorado, drinking and driving fatalities still represent 30 percent of all vehicle related fatalities. In 2007, 170 people in Colorado were killed in drinking and driving crashes, according to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration. Across the country, there were 12,998 deaths caused by drunk drivers.
At the scene of the simulated crash, two smashed cars were donated by the Colorado Springs Police Department, where they had been impounded. Four Airmen volunteered to be the crash victims, their faces painted by a local makeup company.
As the scene unfolded, firefighters pulled trapped victims out of the crushed cars. Security forces gave the suspected drunk driver a sobriety test and American Medical Response crews transported two victims to Penrose Hospital. Finally, Springs Mortuary officials arrived with a stretcher, covered the body with a red velvet blanket, and took him away.
Sand Creek High School student Samantha Sumner, 17, watched the scene. She is on the student council, which will bring the Every 15 Minutes program to the school in April, right before the prom.
“A couple of kids at school do party,” Ms. Sumner said. “I think seeing this would hit them hard — make them think twice about drinking and driving.”
For more information about the Every 15 Minute program, go to www.springsevery15minutes.com.