Matt Maas knows exactly how a single teenage mistake can leave a lasting impact.
His son, Logan, was out joyriding with some friends in northern Dodge County in December 2015 when the driver lost control, sending the unbuckled 18-year-old out the window and onto the gravel road where he would be pronounced dead minutes later.
Matt is sharing his family’s pain through a video called, “Lasting Impact,” in hopes of reaching other teenagers so they don’t make the same deadly mistake his son made. The video was shown for juniors and seniors at Medford High School Friday morning just hours before they would participate in the spring prom.
“It’s very, very hard for our family. I’m reliving the worst day of my life publicly, but the message is important,” Matt confesses. “It’s still hard every day. We have a lot of emotions and heartache. It has changed our whole world.”
Logan was a senior at Triton High School in Dodge Center when the crash happened. At the time, he was a volunteer firefighter in Dodge Center. Matt admits his son knew better than to not be buckled up in a motor vehicle, but for some reason he didn’t wear his seat belt that day.
Matt and other family members were Christmas shopping when they received the devastating news from Matt’s boss, Sheriff Scott Rose. Matt is the emergency management director for Dodge County.
“My wife collapsed to the ground screaming and my daughter tried to comfort her,” Matt said. “What do you think Christmas was like for our family that year?” Matt asked the Medford students as they intently listened to his story.
Matt recalls notifying his younger son that his brother had died. “It’s absolutely the worst thing I’ve ever done as a father,” he said.
Lasting Impact, Matt says, serves as a wake up call. “It can really happen,” he stressed. “It was a preventable crash. A simple decision affects your family, friends and community,” he said.
Matt urged the teenagers in attendance to make good decisions regarding driving. “I’m just hoping the students think about this and the reality of it,” he said. “I want to prevent what our family went through and change behaviors behind the wheel.”
As he travels around the state sharing his message through Lasting Impact, Matt says he’s doing it for his son. “I hope my son would be proud of the message we are sharing and prevent others from going through what we have,” Matt said.
Lasting Impact is being shown through the assistance of the Minnesota State Patrol. The video has been played at 16 high schools across southeastern Minnesota since it was unveiled earlier this year.
Prior to Friday’s video showing in Medford, area emergency personnel enacted a mock car crash in the school’s parking lot. Actors staged a two-vehicle crash with multiple injuries and a death.
One of the actors was Samantha Lustig, a senior at Medford. She portrayed an injured passenger. “This is a good experience to see this happen in real life,” Lustig said. She hopes her fellow classmates will realize that serious crashes can happen to them. “It felt real,” she added.
The mock crash involved personnel from the Steele County Sheriff’s Office, State Patrol, Medford Fire, Gold Cross Ambulance and Medford Funeral Home. A hearse showed up at the end of the crash to take away a student who was killed in a white body bag.
“We want to make sure everyone makes it home safely,” said Sheriff Lon Thiele, who coordinated the crash. “These people care so much about happens to you. We want you to stay safe,” he told the students.