EMT Puts On Mock Crash 10 Years After Pronouncing Teen Dead

Merle Gulbranson: 'I want to show these kids what happens.'

It was exactly ten years ago today that a Colman teen was killed in car crash involving a drunk driver. Still a decade later, the community is hoping her death will make a difference in the lives of others.

While many Colman-Eagan students may not have known Kayla Gaff or remember the accident, a local EMT is giving them a little reminder of what can happen.

“The kids were out joy-riding,” said Merle Gulbranson with Colman Fire & Rescue.

On May 6, 2006, the driver of the vehicle Kayla Gaff was in lost control on a gravel road near Colman. She and two others were thrown from the car. Merle Gulbranson was the first EMT on the scene.

“She was pinned underneath the vehicle after she got ejected and after we flipped the vehicle off from her there was no vital signs at all,” said Gulbranson.

Just 17-years-old, Kayla was killed. The driver, arrested for drinking and driving. Gulbranson still remembers he put on a docudrama to her class just days before teaching kids about the dangers of doing the same thing.

“I’ve been an EMT for 37 years and I want to show these kids what happens,” Gulbranson said.

Friday, ten years later, he recreated a similar scene.

Colman-Eagan 7th grader Ryker Hawkins said, “I’m acting as a drunk driver.”

At the mock scene, Hawkins lost control, rolling his vehicle. Another had to be pried from the car with the jaws of life. She was taken away on a stretcher in critical condition.

Like Gaff, the third, wasn’t as lucky. He was ejected from the vehicle, wheeled away in a body bag. Hawkins was given sobriety tests.

“Blow along and stay until you hear the click alright?,” asked the trooper with the South Dakota Highway Patrol.

In this docudrama nothing got closer to the real thing. When he failed, Hawkins was handcuffed, searched and put into a patrol car.

The trooper told Hawkins, “You’re over the limit. You’re under arrest for DUI.”

A tragic outcome that will hopefully help prevent him or his classmates from making this scene a reality.

Hawkins said, “All the kids see what happens… that they don’t drink and drive and stay safe and wear their seat belt.”

Gulbranson says he’s been creating these docudramas in Colman since 1998. The last one was about five years ago.