Youngsville High School juniors and seniors had a dramatic introduction to the perils of drinking and driving Thursday.
After a morning assembly and lunch, the students filed out to bleachers in front of the school to see two cars under tarps on College Street.
Warren County Sheriff's Deputy Chuck Fetzeck talked the students through the events, having them cover their faces until the first emergency responders arrived.
Photo by Rob Andersen
Emergency personnel work to extract a driver from a wrecked car during a mock DUI crash at Youngsville High School on Thursday.
With the students' faces covered, the tarps were removed to show a gruesome scene. A call was made to 911, and Fetzeck announced over the loudspeakers that the driver of the first vehicle had been drinking all day and was heading back to school to pick up some friends when he collided head-on with a car containing four students.
Screams and cries for help came from the vehicle with the students, then Fetzeck said, "It's been four minutes since the call went out, and there are no rescue personnel on scene."
While they waited and the injured students cried, he said that someone dies, on average, every 15 minutes because of a drunk driver.
"It's been eight minutes now, still no rescue personnel on scene," Fetzeck said.
Shortly afterwards, the sirens could be heard approaching, with ambulances and fire trucks arriving, then Youngsville Police Chief Todd Mineweaser arrived.
As the EMS crews approached the vehicles with gurneys and backboards, Mineweaser gave Chris Wilcox, the driver of the first vehicle, a roadside sobriety test.
Fetzeck said, "It has been determined that the driver is under the influence, and will be taken to Warren General Hospital for blood testing," as Mineweaser led the restrained driver away.
Fetzeck explained that the firefighters was using the Jaws of Life to free the victims of the other car, and that the Stat Medevac helicopter was arriving.
He told the audience that the driver, their friend Jake Marino was dead, the front seat passenger Adison Bidwell would be transported by helicopter to an Erie trauma hospital, and the two back-seat passengers Katie Chuzie and Mackenzie Pense would be transported by ambulance to Warren General Hospital.
For additional realism and to drive the point home, the student actors' real names were used.
"The Stat Medevac is taking off for Erie, it's been 30 minutes," Fetzeck said.
He continued, "Last year, 404 people died in Pennsylvania in DUI-related accidents. Eighteen percent were 16 to 20 years old."
He then introduced Warren County Coroner Jerry Borden, and said that Borden would check the driver to make sure he is deceased.
"The coroner is going to use a large needle, and plunge it into your friend's heart to withdraw blood for testing, to see if there are any toxins," he added.
"The worst thing law enforcement officers have to do is to inform loved ones that someone has died," Fetzeck emphasized.
As he said that Marino's father approached the scene, crying, "No! No!"
Personnel from the Nelson Funeral Home rolled the gurney holding Marino's body to the awaiting hearse, and Fetzeck told the students, "Walk single file by the hearse and say good-bye to your friend. You'll never see him again."
Later, after the students had returned to the school's auditorium for the remainder of the day's presentation, Mineweaser thanked all the people who had helped with the event, and told the students, "I want you to remember this day forever. Even though this wasn't real, it bothered me. I don't want to see this happen here. It's heartbreaking and brutal."
During the day, a number of students had their faces painted white, representing how many people had died from drunk and distracted driving between 8 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. that day.
Another Mock DUI accident scheduled for Friday at Warren Area High School has been canceled due to wet conditions, according to Fetzeck.