On Sept. 6, Joppa Junior-Senior High School students had a front row seat to what law enforcement, first responders, paramedics and firefighters see all too often -- a vehicle accident.
According to Joppa High School (JHS) Principal Terri Waddell, school officials did not tell the students about the drill.
Massac County Emergency Management Agency (MCEMA) Director Brian Horn explained the planning for the drill was stressful, as it was his first "full-scale" exercise. Horn said he has been able to count other events, such as the spring flooding and the incident at Maple Grove Elementary school toward the total number of core capability exercises Massac County must hold to maintain its accreditation through the state. Within four years, MCEMA must hold 32 core capability exercises, amongst other things to maintain its accreditation.
Overall, Horn said the drill went off exactly as it was planned.
The scenario -- a driver near JHS rolls a vehicle. One person is thrown from the vehicle while another is trapped inside. Massac County telecommunicator Abbey Kaylor places the call to Massac County Sheriff's Office reporting the incident, and it is paged out to the appropriate agencies, noting the call is a drill.
Students saw emergency personnel, including Massac County Sheriff's Office, Massac County Emergency Services, Massac County Fire Department, Joppa First Responders and Joppa Fire Department arriving to the scene of the car accident.
According to MCEMA all public safety agencies arrived at the drill and started to assess the scene. Emergency Medical Services and fire units started extricating the entrapped patients while the sheriff's office responders investigated what had caused the accident.
The students saw Massac County Deputy Summer Clapp and Sheriff Chad Kaylor question Matthew McGinness, the driver of the vehicle.
Paramedics loaded one patient into the ambulance, and firefighters worked to free one passenger in the back.
From the loud speakers, students and staff heard an officer on the scene explain to the dispatcher the coroner needed to be contacted. The student laying motionless on the ground did not survive the impact from being thrown from the car.
A frantic mother runs toward the vehicle to see her daughter, but is ushered away by Kaylor while firefighters use equipment to saw through the doors of the car. She is finally freed from the car and placed on a stretcher before being loaded into the back of an ambulance.
MCEMA explains as law enforcement units were investigating the incident, they found the driver was driving under the influence and also was sending a Snap Chat to a friend. The male driver was then administered a Preliminary Breath Test (PBT) and a field sobriety test by a Massac County sheriff's deputy. The PBT results showed the driver was above the legal limit, and he also failed the field sobriety test. The driver was the taken into custody.
Kaylor explained in the scenario McGinness had been to a party and had been drinking. He lost control of the car, causing it to roll over before coming to a stop in the field by the school.
At that point, Kaylor and Clapp stood in front of the students with McGinness, who is in handcuffs. Kaylor explained to the students what the driver was charged with and the risk of driving under the influence and distracted driving.
MCEMA stated in a news release following the drill, distracted driving among teens in the U.S. is on the rise nearly 69 percent of teens in the U.S. admitted to driving distracted. In 2018 statistics show there were nine fatalities per day in the U.S. caused by distracted driving.
According to Kaylor, because of McGinness' actions, his brother was dead and another person injured, and he would face charges of murder. Clapp led McGinness away from the students to put him into the squad car.
Kaylor said emergency personnel have seen situations like this one so they knew what to expect.
"What got my attention was when I was explaining to the kids what the driver was being charged with I saw smiling faces go stoic. I hope it was an eye opener for the kids," said Kaylor.
McGinness is the son of Joppa-Maple Grove School Board member Chris McGinness. "It didn't get real until the cuffs were on me … they put them on tight and I got in the car and it was hot in there. It was definitely something," said Matthew McGinness.
"I got anxious," said student Jasmine Riley, who said she did not know what to expect and was surprised to see Matthew McGinness as the driver of the car. "I think it [the drill] definitely got a message across," she said.
"Unfortunately, I saw too many people laughing at it," said Matthew McGinness, adding some students might have thought it was a joke or way to get out of class time.
"But at the same time, the same kids that were laughing, as I hear them coming in … I heard make a comment about how scary it was and how real it was," said Waddell, adding, "So I think maybe when they were away from the big group, and they were able to start talking to just their closer friends, that the reality kind of set in a little bit."
"It's scary to think about how hurt other people can be while you're the one driving," said Riley.
Chris McGinness said he told Horn and Kaylor they did a good job in putting on the drill, as it was realistic. "It was more emotional than I had expected it to be," he said, adding, "I'm hoping it will truly wake some people up." Chris McGinness says he hopes teens will realize they are driving a several thousand pound deadly weapon and distracted driving can happen so quickly.
Horn said this is the first time a drill like this has been held at Joppa High School, and he is working with Massac Unit One officials to organize a drill to be held at Massac County High School in the near future.
Horn says the drill could not have been done without the partnerships of: Massac County Sheriff's Office, Massac County Fire Department, Joppa Fire Department, Massac County Ambulance Service, Massac County Coroner's Office, C&W Towing and the actors from Joppa High School.