Doña Ana County




               About 30 students will participate in a mock-DWI crash at Oñate High School (OHS) as part of an annual simulation that aims to teach teens the far-reaching effects of drinking and driving.            

            The event – dubbed “Shattered Lives” by organizers – will take place at 10 a.m. Thursday, March 15, near the intersection of Bataan Memorial East and Mesa Grande. Several Doña Ana County emergency crews and first responders will be called to the scene described as “a serious crash involving students.”  Some will be pronounced dead; others will be critically injured.  


Events for the Shattered Lives program will begin next Thursday just before 10 a.m., when all students at OHS will be called out to witness the crash. Morning traffic will be temporarily interrupted. A portion of Mesa Grande will be blocked in front of the school until approximately noon.

            The crash will involve several vehicles, students who will be portrayed as victims and one student who will be acting as the drunk driver. The driver, who is the cause of the crash in the exercise, will be given a series of field sobriety tests on the scene and will be placed under arrest.

            Emergency crews and first responders will arrive on the scene and will tend to the victims just as they would if it were an actual crash. Law enforcement agencies will share the responsibilities of controlling traffic, containing the crime scene, investigating the crash and coordinating medical services.

            At least one student will be airlifted to MountainView Regional Medical Center, where the student’s parents will be called and notified on their child’s “death.”


            While the crash is being staged Thursday morning, several volunteers dressed as the Grim Reaper will visit various classrooms at the school, tapping the shoulders of students picked from a cross-section of the entire student body. The strategy is to ensure each population within the school is represented. A member of law enforcement will then enter the classroom and read an obituary prepared by the student’s loved ones.  


            Following Thursday’s mock crash, students will gather in the gymnasium at OHS on Friday to be reunited with their classmates who were chosen to exemplify the Shattered Lives message.  


            This year’s program is made possible through collaborative efforts of several local law enforcement agencies, including the Doña Ana County Sheriff’s Department, Las Cruces Police Department, New Mexico State Police and the local sector of the U.S. Border Patrol.  Since 2016, the program has operated on donated funds and volunteer efforts.

            Shattered Lives was the brain child of Doña Ana County Teen Court organizer Toni Hernandez, who oversaw the mammoth project for more than a decade. In 2016, Hernandez received a 30-day notice that all state funding was being cut to the Teen Court program – which essentially dissolved the guarantee that “Shattered Lives” would continue under the direction of Teen Court.

            “We still had the commitment from Doña Ana County,” Hernandez said, “but it wasn’t enough to keep the program going on such short notice.”

            Teen Court has since been shuttered, but Hernandez has kept the program going, but warns the future of the event will be dependent on whether another agency is willing to take it over.

            “At our first meeting, I asked every law-enforcement agency if they were willing to move forward upon hearing the news that Teen Court was no more, and the answer was a resounding, unanimous ‘yes’,” Hernandez said. “Until now, I’ve been fortunate that I could dedicate the time it takes to keep things moving forward, but this program really needs a permanent home with another non-profit that sees the value in saving our kids’ lives.”

            According to Hernandez, Shattered Lives has been a fixture at area high schools for more than 10 years, and every year she receives letters from students and parents thanking the program for potentially saving their child’s life.

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Reporters seeking more information or interviews may call Doña Ana County Sheriff's Department Public Information Communication Specialist Kelly Jameson at (575) 386-4302.