Dose of reality: Group hopes to educate before tragedy strikes

CROTHERSVILLE

After having a fun night at prom, students made their way to the after-prom.

Before going to the event, though, four of them decided to head home and drink some alcohol.

Having consumed numerous drinks, they got back in their car to go to the after-prom. Along the way, the driver rounded a curve, failed to see an oncoming car and began to swerve into the middle of the road.

Four of their classmates were in the other vehicle. The driver saw the headlights of the swerving vehicle and tried pulling as far over as she could.

But she didn’t see the utility pole just off of the road.

She swerved at the last second and narrowly missed the car, but she wasn’t able to avoid the pole.

The four people under the influence of alcohol got away without a scratch, but the people in the other car weren’t as lucky.

The front-seat passenger, who wasn’t wearing his seat belt, was ejected through the windshield of the car and landed on the hood. He died on impact.

The driver, who was wearing her seat belt, only sustained lacerations to her face and a concussion, while a person in the back seat had minor injuries, and the other passenger had a life-threatening head injury and had to be taken away in a medical helicopter.

Fortunately, this was just a scenario acted out by members of Crothersville High School’s Students Against Destructive Decisions chapter.

With other high school students watching it all unfold, the mock car crash participants hope they got a message across — remember to make good decisions on prom night and every other night.

Wednesday’s event came a couple of days before the school’s prom. SADD adviser Matt Otte said it is conducted every three or four years around that time to remind students to make it a safe, memorable occasion.

When the students see their classmates involved, Otte said that makes it more real.

“Hopefully, this really drives it home that this does happen and it’s not just somebody else,” he said. “It doesn’t just happen in a community an hour away or across the country. This happens in our backyard and to my friends.”

About half of the nearly 20 SADD members participated in the mock car crash.

Among them was senior Gaby Walters, who is president of the chapter. She acted as the driver of the car that hit the pole.

Participating in the mock car crash for the first time was an emotional experience, especially when she had to react to her front-seat passenger, senior Deven Lemen, being ejected through the windshield.

“In the beginning, it kind of felt like we’re just playing around and stuff,” she said. “But then halfway through it, I literally started crying when I was yelling at Deven. It was rough.”

Walters said she knows of students from area schools who have died in car wrecks in recent years. She hopes Wednesday’s scenario makes teenagers think when they are behind the wheel.

“It’s more beneficial to them to know that something like this can happen to people that they know and not just hear it on the news,” she said. “It’s just to have an impact on them and make them think about it before they do something. Think about it before they drink, do drugs or text.”

The event had Crothersville-Vernon Township Volunteer Fire Department and Jackson County Emergency Medical Services personnel involved to extricate the injured people.

Two Crothersville Police Department officers also participated, and one of them chased down and apprehended one of the people under the influence of alcohol who tried to run from the scene. A tow truck also responded, and a StatFlight medical helicopter landed to transport an injured person.

Including those people made it even more real, Otte said.

“During the whole prom week, we have statistics read over the intercom, ‘This many teenagers have been hurt or killed or been involved in a wreck,'” he said. “Hopefully, (the mock car crash) just really drives it home. It is as real as we can possibly get with all of the paramedics and fire department and police and helicopter.”

Capt. Logan Isenhower with the Crothersville-Vernon Township Volunteer Fire Department said the mock car crash presents an important message.

“I hope they see a real, live look at what can happen and will happen,” he said. “This is not an Xbox game where you can hit restart and start all over. This happens, and it changes lives immediately.”

Isenhower said he has been out of school for seven years, and of his class of 22 students, he has helped extricate four or five of them after wrecks.

“It’s not so much drunk driving anymore. It’s texting and driving we see more than anything anymore,” he said of the cause of a majority of wrecks.

He said the fire department has done multiple extrications, and the mock car crash allows the firefighters to put their training and experience to use.

“It’s all about mindset,” Isenhower said. “When you walk up on an extrication scene, you see so much tragic. You have to put that aside and do the job. We try to drill into our guys just step by step of how to do something and do something safely.”

Just like Wednesday’s scenario, it takes several agencies coming together to help real victims at the scene of a wreck.

“One agency cannot do this,” Isenhower said. “When we work out there in the field, everybody has to work together and make this happen.”

Otte said he appreciated the emergency personnel for taking time out of their day to participate in the event.

“It’s just such a community effort,” he said. “We had people from all over the community taking time off from their jobs. It’s just that they care enough to come out here and be a part of this.”

On the Web

For information about distracted driving, impaired driving, teen driver safety, substance abuse and personal health and safety, visit sadd.org.

Author photo
Zach Spicer is a reporter for The (Seymour) Tribune. He can be reached at zspicer@tribtown.com or 812-523-7080.