A Lesson In Tragedy

FREWSBURG – High school students of Frewsburg Central School received a fictional reality check about the dangers of drunk and impaired driving.

On Thursday, the school coordinated with several law enforcement and emergency response groups to host a mock DWI scenario in time for prom night and upcoming graduation.

The program was presented to students in order to curtail bad decision making by illustrating the numerous ramifications that can be involved in a DWI traffic accident. According to Ron Hasson, coordinator of the Starflight mock DWI crash team, the program aims to demonstrate, in a real way, the unintended consequences that occur when drinking and driving mix.

“We don’t lecture (the students) and say, ‘Don’t you drink and drive,’ because they would just turn us off,” said Hasson. “We say, ‘If you do it, this is what you can expect to have happen.’ You could lose the ability to get licensures, you could lose college scholarships-not to mention medical effects. You could be disabled or killed. Life is full of choices, and if you choose to do some things, you need to understand what some of the consequences are.”

The program began in the auditorium with an introduction by Scott Cooper, Frewsburg Jr.-Sr. High School principal, followed by a performance from student members of the school’s SADD program to set the stage for the ensuing “crash.” After the skit, Deputy Josh Ostrander, of the Chautauqua County Sheriff’s Department, discussed with students the serious nature of DWI-related incidents in the county via statistical information and personal experience.

Students were then taken outside to the football field, where the crash scene was situated. After the crash was reported by radio, police cars, fire apparatus, ambulances, a hearse, the Chautauqua County coroner and a Starflight helicopter were all dispatched to the school in the sequence that would have occurred following a real traffic accident. At the crime scene, one student was taken away by ambulance with serious injuries, one was taken away in the helicopter with serious injuries, the driver at fault was taken into custody after failing a field sobriety test and another was pronounced dead at the scene. Emotional music was played while the student’s body was placed into a body bag and into the hearse.

Back inside the auditorium, the drunk driver was taken to court for arraignment before the Hon. Stephen Cass. A funeral director was then shown having a one-way phone conversation, making funeral arrangements with the parents of the killed student, followed by a memorial service and eulogy provided by a classmate.

Ostrander then returned to the stage to make some closing remarks.

“That was pretty heavy,” he said. “As much as I deal with this in the real world, these presentations can’t help but affect you.”

Also attending the program was Sheriff Joseph Gerace, who said accidents such as the one depicted for the students have been on the decline.

“We can’t point to this particular program by itself but, overall, the number of alcohol-related crashes on prom night and graduation night have declined over the last decade or two,” Gerace said. “We want to show (students the consequences of driving impaired) in a scenario that’s not real so they don’t have to experience something that’s a true tragedy. It’s high impact to catch their attention, and hopefully it will encourage them to make the right decisions.”

Gerace also indicated the vast amounts of energy and resources that go into the implementation of these mock DWI programs.

“This requires hundreds of man hours in a combination of preparation and planning. And it’s mostly volunteer work,” he said. “But if you can save one young life, it’s worth every hour you put into it.”