On Thursday, May 10th five RHS students were honored at a special “Saved by the Belt” Assembly.
The five students, Megan Voegele, Holly Anderson, Haley Franz, Cassondra Byrum, and Erin Hoaas were returning to Redfield from Aberdeen on Friday, April 13 when a vehicle driven by Dennis Weideman, 57, of Mellette, collided with the car driven by Voegele totaling both vehicles. All six were taken to Community Memorial Hospital in Redfield for treatment.
The girls worst injury turned out to be a sprained knee and all the girls were able to attend the RHS Prom the next evening. However, Weideman of Mellette was arrested and charged with driving under the influence, driving on the wrong side of the road and failure to wear a seat belt.
According to Trooper Mark Chamberlain who, first to respond and the one who filed the request for the Saved by the Belt Awards,
“I saw some very troublesome things upon approaching the accident scene; the air bags in the vehicles were all deployed, both vehicles had extensive damage, and there was a lot of debris on the road. I didn’t think it was going to be good for any of the vehicles occupants.” Chamberlain who has had nearly 10 years of experience in crash investigations went on to say, “I’m certain that without their seatbelts, the occupants of Meagan’s vehicle would have suffered from much more severe, incapacitating injuries or worse.”
A sentiment echoed by Colonel Price of the South Dakota Highway Patrol and a 1992 graduate of RHS and Spink County Sheriff Kevin Schurch, a 1973 graduate of RHS. All three agree that Voegele did everything she could to avoid the impact including slowing her speed and pulling off to the right hand side of her lane as far as she could.
Colonel Price told the students assembled that day. “Of the past 10 crash fatalities in South Dakota, 12 people have died, four who were wearing seatbelts survived, and the other eight would be alive if they had had on seatbelts. With graduation coming soon I would encourage you to remember the simple things you can do: wear your seatbelts and don’t drive distracted.”
RHS Principal Rob Lewis also addressed the students, “Every year one of my biggest fears is having to tell the student body and the staff the tragic news that one of them has died. Please drive responsibly. My four year old daughter knows that the car doesn’t move until everyone has their seatbelt on.”
Voegele, Anderson, Franz, Byrum, and Hoaas were honored on Friday, May 4 at the South Dakota State Capitol when they met with Governor Dennis Daugaard. “These young people made safe, smart choices by wearing seatbelts. That deserves recognition and my hope is that they can be examples to other young people and all other South Dakotans to buckle up every time they travel.”