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Ugly scene staged to protect kids
The scene at Oak Harbor High School last Friday was grim. Two vehicles collided. Windows and doorframes were shattered and split. One student was arrested on a possible DUI charge, two were loaded into ambulances and another was pronounced dead at the scene.
Luckily, in this scenario, the students were actors, the accident was staged and no one was actually intoxicated or hurt. But as the senior class watched the scene play out in the rain during an outdoor assembly, they were reminded that that’s not always the case.
With prom and graduation celebrations just around the corner, school administrators and safety officials wanted to remind students about the dangers associated with driving under the influence. Employees from North Whidbey Fire and Rescue, the Oak Harbor Fire Department, the Oak Harbor Police Department, Whidbey General Hospital and Naval Air Station Whidbey Island teamed up with the high school’s Students Again Destructive Decisions club to put on last Friday’s assembly.
“Some kids are going to kid and laugh and joke about it because it doesn’t really hit home to them,” North Whidbey Fire and Rescue Training Officer Ray Merrill said. “Other kids who have been hurt by a drunk driver take it really seriously. I’ve watched the kids in the crowd look and say, ‘That’s a kid I know, they look real, they look dead.’ I’ve seen kids in the crowd start crying because it seems so real to them.”
Merrill said they’ve tried to put on the assembly every other year for the past decade. He said usually law enforcement officials see an increase of DUIs among young people around graduation time, although in the past few years that number has declined.
According to JoAnn Hellman, the director of the Impaired Driving Impact Panel of Island County, the average age for a person to first start drinking alcohol in the county is only 12.
At the opening of the assembly, Assistant Principal William Weinsheimer told the students, “I’ve talked to many of you earlier this week about decisions you may regret. This is a morning committed to thinking about that.”
As the action played out in the parking lot behind the stadiums, funeral director Gary Wallin narrated the events to the audience.
“When you have an accident of this caliber you’ve got what’s called a golden hour,” Wallin said as firefighters carefully removed the student actors from the wrecked vehicles. “You’ve got one hour to get the person to a critical care unit like Harborview Medical Center to save their life.”
Wallin also reminded the students that in addition to the criminal and dangerous consequences of driving under the influence, the cost and manpower required to cover such incidents are both great.
As the assembly wrapped up and the students headed into the auditorium for more information, SADD adviser Cynthia Allen called out to the kids, “We just want to remind you to make good choices. We care about you.”
On Tuesday, May 3, Impaired Driving Impact Panel of Island County presented its 300th prevention panel. Executive Director JoAnn Hellman said that with prom, Memorial Day and graduation celebrations on the horizon, students and adults alike need to be extremely careful on the roads.
To ensure a safe celebratory evening or Memorial Day weekend, IDIPIC recommends the following tips:
• Plan a safe way home before the festivities begin.
• Designate a sober driver.
• Leave your car keys at home.
• Call a taxi, call a friend or family member or use public transportation to ensure you get home safely.
• Call 911 if you see a possible DUI motorist.
• Assist someone about to drive under the influence by getting them home safely. If they refuse, call 911.
“We can all help make our roads safer from DUI,” Hellman said. “No one wants to be hit by someone driving under the influence ... whether the influence is from alcohol, prescription, over-the-counter or illegal drugs. If you want that safety, you have to give that safety. Never DUI. We can all live with that.”
For more information on IDIPIC and to see a list of upcoming events and panels, visit idipic.org.