Destructive Decisions

Sheffield mock crash paints a sobering picture

Times Observer photo by Dave Ferry Seven minutes after Isaac called 911, an officer from the Sheffield VFD arrives on the scene. At 12 minutes emergency crews from Sheffield, Cherry Grove and Clarendon began arriving to help.

If a scenario acted out on Thursday actually occurred, odds are hundreds of prayers would be posted on social media before parents at the scene of a crash could learn the fate of their child.

A mock crash assembly was held at Sheffield Area Middle-High School on Thursday. The two-vehicle, alcohol-related mock crash involved four students, multiple injuries and one fatality.

The timeline of the crash was played out with a real-time response of multiple emergency responders.

It took 26 minutes from the time the crash was called into 911 for the parents of the driver of one car to be told their son did not survive. Just seven minutes later, those parents, still waiting for their son to be taken from the vehicle, had to choose a funeral home to take him away.

SAMS students sat silently watching as their fellow students and first responders acted out the scene that emergency crews hope never becomes a reality.

Times Observer photo by Dave Ferry Isaac, the driver of the vehicle that hit Matt’s car was the only one able to think clearly enough to dial 911. Isaac blew a .23 BAC and was later arrested for DUI.

Since the first mock crash was held at the school in 1991, there has not been a DUI fatality on prom night, according to Warren County Sheriff’s Deputy Rachel Canfield.

Nationwide statistics point to the motivation behind assemblies that show students the consequences of what Canfield described as “stupid decisions.”

According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD): In 2017, a total of 1,147 children 14 and younger were killed in motor vehicle traffic crashes. Of those 1,147 fatalities, 19 percent (220) occurred in alcohol-impaired-driving crashes. Out of those 220 deaths, 54 percent were occupants of vehicles with drivers who had BACs of .08 or higher.

As students arrived to the bleachers surrounding the two-vehicle crash, blue tarps covered both cars. Canfield asked the students to close their eyes as she read the details of what led to the mock crash.

Canfield told the story of Isaac and Scotland who were drinking at a party in Ludlow when they decided to head off to another party with Isaac at the wheel.

Times Observer photo by Dave Ferry Isaac’s passenger, Scotland sustained injuries to her leg and was fitted with a neck brace before rescue workers were able to remove her from the vehicle and transport her and Alyssa to the hospital to receive treatment for their injuries.

Matt, the driver of the second car, had gone to the school to pick up his sister, Alyssa.

Matt didn’t see Isaac driving along Route 6 and as he left the school, pulled directly into his path.

As the students opened their eyes, the blue tarps were lifted from the cars. Three of their classmates were entrapped in the cars and covered in blood. Two called for help as one sat still and silent behind the wheel.

Isaac was the only one able to get out of the car and call for help. He thinks clearly enough to call 911, but he doesn’t stay on the phone to provide details. As he checks on his passenger and his fellow students in the second car, Alyssa screams at him, “You killed him! I can’t believe you did this! You killed my brother!”

The students watched and listened as emergency radio transmissions are heard on the scanner and Isaac repeats “I’m sorry” to Alyssa and his mother, as he calls to tell her what happened.

Times Observer photo by Dave Ferry Rescue workers employ a reciprocating saw, crow bar and the Jaws of Life to gain access to the entrapped passengers.

Just seven minutes after the call to 911, an officer with the Sheffield Volunteer Fire Department was the first to arrive on the scene. “It feels like a lot longer than seven minutes to them,” Canfield said as she glanced toward the crash victims.

At about the 12-minute point, entrapment in the vehicles was determined and emergency crews from Sheffield, Cherry Grove and Clarendon started to arrive. Officers from the Sheriff’s Department arrived to administer sobriety tests to Isaac. Crews were informed there was no emergency helicopter available.

The students watched in silence as crews removed windshields and doors to safely extricate everyone but Matt. At the 19-minute point, Isaac was still the only person outside the vehicles.

As Matt and Alyssa’s parents arrived, they were heard asking why he is covered and why he’s not moving. “It’s 23 minutes in and Alyssa is still stuck in the car next to her dead brother,” Canfield told the students.

Three minutes later Matt’s parents were told he didn’t make it. At about the same time, their daughter, Alyssa and Isaac’s passenger, Scotland, were extricated and headed to the hospital for treatment.

Times Observer photo by Dave Ferry

Just 33 minutes from the time the 911 call went out, Matt’s parents had to choose a funeral home and Isaac’s blood alcohol level had been tested at .23.

Emergency crews from multiple agencies removed the roof of the car that still held the lifeless driver. They quietly slid Matt onto a gurney.

The students lined up and walked by their classmate Matt as he lay on a stretcher in a body bag. Some said goodbye. Some didn’t. Then they headed into the school auditorium to watch as Isaac faced the consequences of his actions.

Magisterial District Judge Raymond Zydonik explained the multiple charges and the legal process as he imposed a $250,000 bond. Isaac then read Matt’s obituary. The sound of clinking handcuffs was the only sound heard as Isaac was led from the auditorium.

Sheffield Volunteer Fire Department Chief Kevin Bell then addressed the students. He thanked the many organizations, groups and volunteers who took part in the assembly.

Times Observer photo by Dave Ferry Matt with his sister Alyssa, who could be heard screaming, “You killed him! I can’t believe you did this! You killed my brother!”

“Many of these folks took the day off from work to be here. They wouldn’t have done this if they didn’t care about you,” Bell told the students. “I hope you take this seriously. Please don’t become a statistic.”

Rescue workers and volunteers

Warren County Sheriff’s Deputy Rachel Canfield said it takes tens of thousands of dollars and donated time to stage a mock crash each year.

Canfield said the following individuals and departments made Thursday’s assembly at Sheffield Area Middle-High School a success, including: Warren County Sheriff’s Office, Warren County Adult Probation, Warren County S.A.D.D., Warren County Communications, Sheffield Volunteer Fire Department, Clarendon Volunteer Fire Department, Cherry Grove Volunteer Fire Department, Emergycare, Chief Deputy Coroner Melissa Zydonik, Scott Rose of Warren County Department of Public Safety, Warren County Career Center Health/ Medical Assisting students, Merle Merritt and Merritt Motor car for providing vehicles, Jerry Borden and Doug Kennedy of Borden Funeral Home, Magisterial District Judge Raymond Zydonik and Warren County Prison.

Times Observer photos by Dave Ferry

Times Observer photo by Dave Ferry

Times Observer photo by Dave Ferry Students filed past to say good bye to their friend.

Times Observer photo by Dave Ferry After a full 33 minutes from Isaac’s initial 911 call, Matt’s parents were able to say goodbye to their son Matt, who did not survive the tragic accident.

Times Observer photo by Dave Ferry Rescue workers employ a reciprocating saw, crow bar and the Jaws of Life to gain access to the entrapped passengers.

COMMENTS