By Dedra Cordle
The students in the communications and event management lab at the South-Western Career Academy wanted to pull off something grand for their capstone project.
After weeks of mulling over the perfect project, they came up with a large-scale event to remind their peers about the dangers of drunk or distracted driving during upcoming events such as prom and graduation.
“We wanted to make an impact,” said senior Abdul Hassan.
With the help of principal James Marion and Debbie Stiff, the career planning specialist for the South-Western City Schools District, the students met with local agencies to see if what they had in mind could work.
According to Hassan, their enthusiasm for the student-led project changed the entire scope of the event.
“It became even bigger than we initially planned,” he said.
It started in the early morning on April 28 when three wrecked vehicles were strategically placed to demonstration what it looks like when multiple cars collide.
“This is a pretty realistic interpretation of a scene we come upon often,” said Scott Burris, the fire marshal at the Jackson Township Fire Department, as he gazed upon the mangled metal.
Shortly thereafter, the students who signed up to be the victims and person responsible for the crash came onto the scene. Doused in fake blood, some settled into the vehicles and slumped over the steering wheel or pressed themselves against a window. Some were laying half-in and half-out of an open door.
Mock crash victim Chase Sutherland later called being involved in this demonstration surreal.
Around 9:30 a.m., the students of the Career Academy began filtering outside where they saw some of their friends and peers motionless on the ground. Then the sirens of both the Jackson Township and Pleasant Township Fire Department engines began whirring, as did those on the top of patrol vehicles from the Grove City Division of Police.
For nearly 20 minutes, the students saw their peers dragged from vehicles and covered with sheets. They saw the fire departments use the ‘jaws of life’ to try to reach those still trapped inside. They even saw junior Dakota Mckenzie being given a field sobriety test and handcuffed when he failed.
Some in the crowd took the demonstration seriously. Others made jokes as their friends were being hauled off to ‘jail.’
Sutherland said even though it may have looked silly to some, it doesn’t negate the seriousness of the message that one should not drive under the influence or even text while you’re behind the wheel.
“It just doesn’t make sense to me,” said the junior. “We should all have the mentality that (what we do behind the wheel) could kill someone or even yourself.”
But the mock fatal crash was not all that the students in the communications and event management had in store for their peers that day. They also had stations where students got behind the wheel while wearing specially designed goggles to simulate drugged or drunken driving and a station where a lawyer spoke about the professional consequences of having a drunk, drugged or distracted driving charge on your record. There were also CPR demonstrations from OhioHealth representatives and a MedFlight unit on hand to talk about emergency situations.
Perhaps the most sobering reminder of the consequences of distracted or drunk driving happened at the end of the event when local parent Bob Kent spoke to the students.
It was the night of Christmas Eve in 2004 when Kent was told that his 21-year-old son, Brandon, was killed by a drunk driver. Brandon’s friends Lucas Carmean and Joshua Worthington were also killed in the head-on collision.
“I wanted to curl up and die too,” he said.
Kent urged the students not to get behind the wheel if they have been drinking. He also urged them to step up when they see someone about to get behind the wheel when they have been drinking.
“I am telling you that there will be a time and a place when you see someone who shouldn’t be behind the wheel getting behind the wheel,” he said. “You gotta stop them.
“We can stop this, but it is going to take all of us to make it happen.”
Hassan said that he hopes his peers will take Kent’s message and the events of this day to heart and use it as a guide for the rest of their lives.
“I want them to keep this in the back of their minds.”