The Richardton-Taylor School District carried out a simulated car crash to teach 7th-12th grade students about the consequences of distracted and impaired driving.

Lea Floberg, volunteer squad leader for the Richardton-Taylor Ambulance service, said this was the first time the high school has done a mock-crash since 2016.

She said there was a great deal of planning involved.

“We worked together to coordinate everything that needed to go into the planning from getting the vehicles towed there, to contacting the agencies involved to make sure everybody was on board with being there at the right time,” she said.

Initially the Sanford AirMed helicopter was not slated to show up due to an unexpected call, but ultimately they were able to make it — much to the excitement of Chantz Rivinius, who got to ride in the helicopter.

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The Sanford Medical helicopter takes off. (Jason O'Day / The Dickinson Press)
The Sanford Medical helicopter takes off. (Jason O'Day / The Dickinson Press)

Floberg said that in a typical airlift call the victim would be flown to Bismark. Once the helicopter is dispatched and arrives in Richardton, it would typically take about 20 minutes to get from there to a Bismark hospital.

She said the Richardton and Taylor Fire Departments are completely volunteer entities, while the ambulance service is also all-volunteer with the exception of one paid staff member.

The student actors who participated in the mock-crash included Abby Lacher, Collin Grage, Hope Baranko and Chantz Rivinius.

In the simulation Lacher was “arrested” for texting and driving, Garage died and Rivinius was airlifted in a Sanford AirMed helicopter.

First responders load Collin Grage into the helicopter. (contributed / Rhonda Kuntz)
First responders load Collin Grage into the helicopter. (contributed / Rhonda Kuntz)
As part of the role playing exercise, Richardton High School student Abby Lacher was "arrested" for texting and driving. (Jason O'Day / The Dickinson Press)
As part of the role playing exercise, Richardton High School student Abby Lacher was "arrested" for texting and driving. (Jason O'Day / The Dickinson Press)

“Now you owe Sanford $70,000 for that helicopter ride,” Stark County Chief Sheriff’s Deputy Ray Kaylor jokingly told Rivinius afterward during an assembly in the gymnasium.

Kaylor also underscored the seriousness of what was portrayed.

“When something like this happens because the driver was texting, eating, talking on the phone, putting on make-up or whatever, we in law enforcement don’t call it an accident, we call it a crash because it’s preventable,” Kaylor said.

Several organizations were involved, including Richardton and Taylor Fire Departments, Sanford AirMed, Stark County Sheriff's Department, the North Dakota Highway Patrol, -Stark County Coroner's Office, Ladbury Funeral Service, Stark County Emergency Management, Southwest District Health Unit, Yuker Towing and the Dickinson Law Enforcement Dispatch Center. (contributed / Rhonda Kuntz)
Several organizations were involved, including Richardton and Taylor Fire Departments, Sanford AirMed, Stark County Sheriff's Department, the North Dakota Highway Patrol, -Stark County Coroner's Office, Ladbury Funeral Service, Stark County Emergency Management, Southwest District Health Unit, Yuker Towing and the Dickinson Law Enforcement Dispatch Center. (contributed / Rhonda Kuntz)

North Dakota Highway Patrol Sgt. Chris Messer, who also took part in the event, explained the toughest part of what first responders do that students did not get to witness Wednesday morning.

“You see the helicopter, you see the ambulance and you see the fire trucks. What you don’t see is us going to his family residence,” Messer said. “That’s the worst part, is actually having to tell his parents and his loved ones that he’s not coming home.”

Richard-Taylor Public Schools Superintendent Kelly Peters told the students the point of the morning’s events was to impress upon them the importance of safe driving.

“Now I know the students in the audience, you had fun this morning, you’re laughing and joking and so on. But what you didn’t see was the reaction from the adults, faculty and staff who were watching this unfold. You are their students, you have an impact on their lives and you’re with them forever,” Peters said. “We care about you. We care about the community. We want a strong and safe community. So please guys, all these accidents can be prevented.”