Nevada Daily Mail
WALKER -- The physical and emotional devastation wrought by drunken or distracted driving was acted out in a vivid fashion Wednesday, behind Northeast Vernon County schools.
The student body watched with apparent gravity as firefighters, ambulance EMTs, med-evac personnel and State Highway Patrolman Jim Wilde secured the scene and cared for Shelby Wilkins and Jacob Maus, both 18, Chance Messier, Amber Bogardus and Mikelah Moyer, both 15, Payton Hays and Erin Kitsmiller, both 17, and 15-year-old Tori Stutzman.
Shelby, Jacob and Chance were declared "dead," covered with blankets and carried to a mortuary van while Payton, the drunken driver who had caused the "wreck," was taken into custody.
The critically injured Amber was evacuated on a St. John's MedFlight helicopter that had come popping dramatically down from the east and landed nearby.
Wilde pleaded with the students to drive with unbroken attentiveness and gestured to the firefighters and EMTs behind him, who gave their unspoken but clear assent to the trooper's assertion that such events are tragically commonplace to them.
Then the assemblage moved to the NEVC Knights' gymnasium, where many students had long noticed but not fully understood the significance of dedicatory language on the scoreboards in honor of the late NEVC graduate Jeremy "Jer" Goins.
Goins' brother Dustin said Jeremy was a 20-year-old, second-year student at Fort Scott Community College in 1994, who had eaten lunch with friends in Hume and was driving around a curve at Harwood when his vehicle slid on gravel and hit a culvert. Goins' three passengers survived, but he did not, his brother said.
"Jer wasn't speeding, but he had been drinking and was not wearing a seatbelt," said Dustin, struggling with his emotions. "I was 13; and even today I can still see it when I went in to see him. I'm 31 now and have two kids. Neither one will ever get to meet the man I consider one of my biggest heroes."
Goins said Jeremy, auburn-haired and handsome, with an effervescent personality, was loved by everyone. "You may think it can never happen to you, but it only takes one single mistake and it's something you can't take back," he said.
"It's not just a today thing. It can affect the rest of your life."
Goins, of Nevada, is studying social and criminal justice online at Ashford University in Clinton, Iowa, and planning to become either a highway patrolman or a conservation agent.
Shelby is a cousin of Dustin's and Jeremy's who led the demonstration as an FCCLA project. "Remember what you heard today and put it in your life," she said tearfully.
FCCLA sponsor Laurie Bybee said the program "is very important because a lot of students have no idea of the responsibility of driving safely."
Chasity Dice, 18, said afterward that the demonstration was realistic and effective. "Let's not drink and drive and help others to remember," she said.
Another student, Haley Hays, said, "It touched me and I hope it will touch a lot of people's lives so they won't act stupid and drink or text when they drive."
The wrecked vehicles were provided by Highland Auto Parts of Nevada.