Fortuna High School Students Meet Grim Reaper for a Good Cause


The Grim Reaper visits emergency personnel caring for Fortuna High School students. [Photo credit: Sarah Albin]

On April 28, 2016, the Fortuna Union High School in conjunction with Fortuna Police Department, Fortuna Volunteer Fire Department, Humboldt County Sheriff’s Department Coroner, California Highway Patrol, Redwood Memorial Hospital, student and teaching staff, as well as numerous community volunteers, participated in an “Every 15 Minutes” program. This two day event started off Thursday morning with previously selected students being removed every 15 minutes from their class, by the Grim Reaper. A parent drafted obituary of the “dead” student was read and then left with a dark red rose, as a solemn reminder of another life lost too soon to drunk driving.

The selected students became the “Walking Dead” and reappeared with the Grim Reaper, at the lunchtime student assembly in the 14th Street parking lot. In the lot, a simulated traffic accident scene had been set up.   The accident scene this year had a “prom” theme as the Fortuna High prom is this weekend. All student players were in full prom attire and moulage style makeup.

Police, fire and ambulance responded to the accident scene, extricating students and transporting injured parties to the hospital. One student was immediately pronounced dead and later transported to the Coroner’s office to await a parental viewing. Another student was transported to Redwood Memorial Hospital, where his parents were later called to remove life support.

“The hardest thing was being told your son had died in an accident; saying your goodbye at the hospital, leaving the hospital, getting in my truck and thinking, now what? Life goes on as usual?” said Sandra Macias, parent of one of the involved students. “Every 15 minutes in real life, a parent does not get to go home, knowing that this is fake. They go home and know their life has changed for the rest of their lives.”

Police on hand also performed Field Sobriety Tests on the suspect driver, later arresting and transporting the driver to the Humboldt County Jail. The remaining “Walking Dead” students, walked around the scene, observing quietly.  All involved students are then sequestered away for the night, with both parents and students asked to write “good bye” letters to one another.

The conclusion of the program happens today, with a special assembly held at the Fortuna High School Damon Gym. Attendees will listen to special guest speakers and some of the “good bye” letters written by both the involved students and parents. Chaplains and counselors will be on scene to assist and support Fortuna High and community members.

The Every 15 Minutes Program began in 1995 at a school in Chico. Since then, schools across the nation have embraced the program, hoping to show students the impact of their decisions and related loss, to their family and friends.  For more information on the program, please see



  • Wow! That’s a powerful message! Hope it is eye opening to the teens.

  • wish they had that when i was in high school
    heard of a different kind of lesson but the same
    they say no one outside the students that volunteered knew about it .
    but was a staged accident outside the school parking lot just before school . same affect as staged in parking lot
    a friend said they did that at his high school in oregon but i cant remember what town . said there were lots of tears then they got up as school started .
    that seemed too powerful of demonstration to me but sometimes thats whats needed

  • Moulage makeup for this event by Mark (” Radar”) Sigsworth

  • Why doesn’t this appear in the “recent posts”?

  • scared straight!

  • Such an amazing program! I was lucky enough to be the first class in Fortuna High that this was done for. Talk about leaving a mark! I will never forget that, and it’s been 13+ years ago! Seeing my friends be “killed” due to this type of incident and having that as a powerful reminder about the implications of drinking and driving become all too real.

    Thank you to all the agencies involved. If you save even one life, it’s beyond worth it!

  • Thanks to all the community for assisting with this awesome event. Police, fire, sheriff, local business people did so much to make this a powerful experience for the students. Tom Ross gave an excellent presentation. I am a teacher and we talked about in class the rest of the day; it made a positive and powerful impression.

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