Scenario of deadly crash gives MHS students first-hand account of consequences of DWI
There was a “deadly” car collision at Massapequa High School; however it was really a “live” car collision and rescue demonstration designed to shock the junior and senior classes into thinking twice before getting behind the wheel of a car after drinking. The simulation was organized in conjunction with Massapequa High School, the Massapequa Fire Department and Nassau County Police.
The accident scenario depicted a twocar collision with an intoxicated driver and multiple victims. One victim was depicted as having gone through the windshield and ended up on the hood of a car dying of her injuries. The driver staggered out of the car, the rest of the victims were pinned inside.
The second car was flipped over on its side. The fire department demonstrated extrication of victims, patient care and removal using rescue vehicles and the jaws of life. Nassau County Police demonstrated a live DWI test/arrest and provided a helicopter landing to simulate a medical evacuation from the scene. After the rescue, a car pulled up with two actors portraying the victims’ parents to show the emotional consequences of the deadly accident.
"We didn't have any scripts and we were going to improvise and then I couldn't because I was just so upset, so I just saw her and went from there,” said Heneveld. “It was just too upsetting to see her lying there.”
Massapequa High School Principal Barbara Williams said the scenario is “an all-too-real possibility at this time of year.” With the advent of the prom, graduation and end-of school-year celebrations, students are more apt to take risks.
Williams shared a personal story with the students about how three of her friends died in a DWI car accident during her senior year of high school, and she described all the pain and devastation it caused in the school and for the families of the victims. That’s a situation she says she doesn't want for Massapequa High School to experience.
Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano also addressed the students asking them to plan out their transportation before hand if they plan to be drinking.
"You have to have a designated driver or an alternate transportation planned out before you go out, because after you have a drink you start making bad decisions," said Mangano, "Before you drink make plans. Do not drink and drive. If you don't care about your own life, care about the innocent victim.”
The idea for this live demonstration came from a Students Against Drunk Driving member two years ago who approached the fire department with the suggestion. Massapequa Fire Department 1st Assistant Chief Gerard Keuchler says the goal was to shock the students with strong imagery that they could relate to so they could see the often-deadly consequences of drunk driving.
"We employ these student actors and the peers of these children to play our principal actors here. We get the cars, we make this to look as real as possible to have that strong visual aspect," said Keuchler, who added that even though this crash was a simulation, in all his years on the job, he's seen the real thing far too many times. It’s worse than you can imagine. I've been called to a few of these myself and it's heart wrenching so hopefully this message will get across."
Ultimately officials said one of the factors that leads to these deadly crashes is that youngsters sometimes fear getting into trouble with their parents more than the risk of driving drunk. But Williams pointed out that there are alternatives to drunk driving including planning ahead. And, parents should be part of that plan.
"If they (students) are at a celebration and they do something that should prevent them from getting behind the wheel of or in a car with someone who has been drinking, parents should impress upon their child that they can call them in the middle of the night to pick them up— no questions asked.”
Fire Fighter Stewart Paolino says it's better to have your child call for a ride and be alive then taking a risk getting behind the wheel after drinking for fear of punishment. "That's sometimes what these kids are afraid of; they don’t make that phone call because they know they made a wrong choice, but parents have to tell them they are glad they called because they are alive," says Paolino. "Accidents will happen... but driving while intoxicated can be prevented. This kind of a tragedy can be prevented."