Local Emergency Services deal with (planned) auto accident at school

Trent Ernst, Editor


On May 3, a student at the Tumbler Ridge Secondary School was suspected of showing up to school intoxicated, says Constable James Bos. The student got into an argument with the principal, gave him a push then left the school hopping into his vehicle with a passenger. As he was leaving the school parking lot at excessive speeds, he ran into a second vehicle entering the school, which had a driver and two passengers. The student then fled the scene on foot, leaving behind the four other people, all of which sustained some form of injury.

This, says Bos, was the situation for an emergency scenario that happened May 3. The scenario involved the school, the RCMP, the local BC Ambulance Service and the Tumbler Ridge Fire Department.

Bos was addressing the student body after the scenario, explaining what had happened and why. He says that each agency involved has its own priorities when it comes to training exercises like this, and in planning for the emergency, he wanted to make sure as many interests overlapped as possible.

So for instance, the reason the student fled the school after pushing the principal and after causing the accident was because he had a gun in his backpack that he didn’t want discovered. The incident forced the school into lockdown mode. Bos says that often times emergency exercises like this happen and everyone knows that something is going to happen, and teachers have their class lists at the corner of the desk. Here, only a few people like the principal and Brandon Braam over at the Fire Department knew exactly what was happening.

As part of the scenario, one car was severely damaged in the crash, and the doors were unable to open. This meant that the fire department had to break out the hydraulic extrication tools, removing windows, doors and roof in an attempt to rescue the driver, who was being played by TRSS student, Wyatt Cornell.

“While they were ripping apart the vehicle, it was really scary,” says Cornell. “They had me covered with a tarp, but some of the glass fell in my shoes. But as the paramedic said, it was a life over limb situation. They had to turn me to fit on the stretcher, which was really awkward. They has to twist me about, then they taped my head down put on a neck brace.”

Once he was finally extricated, the scenario came to a close, and the emergency services stood Cornell up, still strapped onto the spine board, to pose for a picture. Then the cars were cleaned out of the parking lot, and the students went inside for a debrief with the whole school.

During the session, one of the students asks why the whole process took so long; nearly an hour from when the first call was made to when the final victim was extricated from the car. Bos says that’s part of why they do scenarios like this. “What you witnessed is as fast as this could happen,” he says. “Imagine this happening out near Gwillim. The next car to come along might not be for twenty minutes, and then will have to drive a half hour for cell service.”

One of the groups that was in on the scenario was the Police Dog service out of Fort St. John. If there had really been an accident, and there had really been a runner says Bos, it would take at least an hour and a half for them to get to Tumbler Ridge. “It might seem slow, but it takes Ford about a day to build a car; it takes the fire department less than an hour to take it apart.”

Bos says that statistically, teens do less impaired driving than their parents. He challenges the students to keep it up. More importantly, he says, students need to realize that the laws are in place for a reason. “Don’t do anything because you don’t want a ticket. That’s the worst reason. Realize that you are driving the world’s biggest bullet. This was not a very complicated accident, but it took an hour to get Wyatt out.”