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Simulation shows dangers of distracted, drunk driving

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By Whitney Jones

The following incident could happen anywhere and luckily for all those involved Wednesday at Los Alamos High School, this was just a simulation.

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A LAHS student faces 18 ½ years behind bars and more than $20,000 in fines after a drunk driving incident killed two of his classmates and injured several others.

High School senior Ben Schilling was driving a grey van when he struck a black Mazda carrying four of his classmates Thursday morning behind the school gymnasium. The impact sent his passenger and friend 16-year-old Kyle Partin through the windshield and across the road – killing him instantly. Three passengers in the other vehicle including the driver weren’t seriously injured, but one was airlifted to the hospital in critical condition where she later died.

Passengers in the second vehicle told police that the driver had allegedly been texting friends while he was driving and didn’t have his eyes on the road so he couldn’t respond fast enough to possibly avoid the accident.

In an interview with Schilling’s parents, Lori and Scott Schilling, they described their son as a good, well-rounded student. Lori Schilling said she was completely surprised that their son had made such a horrible mistake.
Schilling was booked at the Los Alamos County Detention Center.

Los Alamos Magistrate Judge Pat Casados arraigned Schilling on one count of aggravated DWI, two counts of vehicular homicide, two counts of great bodily injury by vehicle and reckless driving.

If convicted on all counts, he faces jail time until he’s 36 years old.

“I hope this has the impact it’s supposed to today,” Casados said adding that normally such cases would go before a district court judge.

The entire incident was part of staged anti-drunk driving and anti-distracted driving campaign put on by the Los Alamos Police and Fire Departments to send a strong message home to teenagers about the dangers and potential consequences the two offenses can have.

Two girls who watched the accident unfold at the school said they knew a few of the students.

Junior Elizabeth Turner said she thought the simulation taught a good lesson.

“It’s important to know that these things do happen,” she said. “You’re not invincible.”

Miranda Barraza, 16, shared a similar sentiment to Turner’s.

“I thought it was very realistic,” she said. “Actually it’s really touching in a way – it does get to you.”

Turner and Barraza said the simulation stirred a profound genuine response.
Kenzie Logan, 16, said she knows people at her school who do drink alcohol and it was sad to see first-hand what dangers they could face.
“It was really sad,” she said.