The entire student body of Justin-Siena High School gathered at the front of the high school Monday morning to witness the consequences of drinking and driving.
A mock crash scene, involving a green Chevrolet truck and a red Ford van, had been assembled.
The bloodied arm of Justin student Natalie Avellar hung limp out of driver’s window of the van. On the hood of the truck was an even more gruesome sight — the “dead” body of student Diano Pachote. On the pavement below was a broken windshield and a pool of blood.
The students listened as a 911 call played over a loudspeaker. Within minutes, fire trucks and California Highway Patrol cars turned onto Maher Street, sirens blaring.
“Sit still. Sit still,” a firefighter told Avellar. “We’re going to help you, OK?”
By the end of Monday’s demonstration, Avellar was airlifted to Queen of the Valley Hospital, Pachote was taken away by the coroner, and student Sam Davison — the “driver” of the truck — was arrested by CHP.
Although the scene was staged, the message impacted many students. A few who broke down crying were escorted back into the school.
“It makes me realize it can happen to anyone at any time,” said 16-year-old Julia Williams, who watched the scene from the school’s front lawn.
Williams said she recognized each of the students who played victims in the crash, which made it personal.
“It hits you,” Williams said. “I know them.”
EVERY 15 MINUTES
Nine white crosses were staked in the center of the Justin-Siena campus Monday morning, each bearing the name of an actual Justin student or faculty member. By the end of the day, many more crosses would be added to the makeshift graveyard.
One student or faculty member was pulled from class on Monday every 15 minutes — each absence represented a death from drinking and driving. After the person was taken out of class, their obituary would be read, and a rose was placed on their desk.
The mock crash scene and fake obituaries are part of “Every 15 Minutes” — a two-day program aimed at making high school students think about personal safety and the consequences of drinking and driving.
The program was originally developed by the Chico Police Department in 1995. The program’s name was derived from the fact that, in the early 1990s, someone in the U.S. died in an alcohol-related crash every 15 minutes.
In Napa County, the program is taking place at several high schools this spring, including Vintage, St. Helena, and Valley Oak.
The warning against drinking and driving is timely for high school students because many sophomores are just now getting their driver’s licenses, and most school proms take place in April or May. Justin-Siena’s prom is scheduled for May 18.
Davison said prom is often followed by after-parties that last until the early morning hours.
Both Pachote and Davison are student athletes and sign contracts that include rules against drinking. The young men said they’d rather play sports then get in trouble at parties.
“Sports are way more important than any of that stuff,” Davison said.
For the students actors at Justin-Siena, the consequences of Monday’s mock crash didn’t end on Maher Street. At Queen of the Valley, Avellar’s parents would be given the news that their daughter died of her injuries. And Davison would be taken to jail, fingerprinted, and put in a holding cell.
The rest of the student body at Justin-Siena would learn of the aftermath during an assembly Tuesday, when the student and parent participants would share their stories.
Before the mock crash took place, the student actors gathered in the school library to prepare for the scene. With a bloody gash across his forehead, Pachote sat at a table with friends. His wound was made from theater make-up, but for Pachote, the mock crash wasn’t about fun and games.
“This could actually be my friends this is happening to,” Pachote said. “I don’t ever want to be in this situation.”