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Brian Basham and Nate Bowe, Forum Communications Co., Published May 04 2012

Six injured when mock accident turns real in Detroit Lakes

DETROIT LAKES, Minn. – Detroit Lakes High School students who gathered to watch a pre-prom auto accident drill Friday morning were shocked when an unmanned firetruck slowly accelerated down the street and plowed into two cars that were staged for the mock crash, injuring at least six people.

Authorities said no one appeared to be seriously injured – although several were taken to the emergency room at Essentia Health-St. Mary’s to be checked out.

The crash occurred at a low speed, perhaps 5 mph or less, but the weight of the firetruck caused the chain-reaction accident, said Detroit Lakes Police Chief Tim Eggebraaten.

Eggebraaten, who was filming the mock crash on his iPad, said the six who were injured included two of the student actors, a young boy and his mother, a state trooper and an EMS worker.

All were participating in the mock crash.

The mock crash started out as planned, with student actors portraying the aftermath of a drinking and driving accident on Madison Avenue near the high school.

There were two cars involved in the mock accident – the first with a family of three and the second with five young people in it.

Emergency personnel were dispatched to the scene, and soon after, it turned into a real accident.

A Detroit Lakes Fire Department truck was parked idling on the street about 30 feet from the staged two-car accident as firefighters removed mock crash actors from a vehicle.

Suddenly, the firetruck started moving forward, gaining momentum and plowing into the rear of one of the mock crash vehicles, which then hit the second car.

One person was injured in the first car hit by the firetruck: Jon Patrick Stone, 9, was acting in the mock drill along with his parents, who were also in the car. His mother, Joyce Stone, was also checked at the emergency room. His father was not injured, Eggebraaten said.

A state trooper, Sgt. Rodney Eischens, 44, was working on the first car and injured his knee when he jumped up and out of the way as the firetruck came in.

There were five high school-aged girls in the second car, and one was injured: Keandra Schumacher, 18.

An EMS worker and student actor working outside the second car were also injured. They are Olivia Johnson, 18, and Debra Lynn Larson, 55.

Detroit Lakes Fire Chief Dave Baer said the emergency brake was on and the truck was in neutral, as it should have been. There was no reason for it to have accelerated, he said.

“I’ve got the state coming to look at (the truck) and Swanson’s Repair,” Baer said. “Engine 3 isn’t very old at all.”

“It was unfortunate,” Eggebraaten said. “We’re just thankful that nobody was seriously hurt.”

The entire student body of Detroit Lakes High School was gathered for the mock crash and saw the real accident.

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Brian Basham and Nate Bowe write for Detroit Lakes Newspapers