Oak Harbor High School students converged on the scene of a gruesome car crash behind the school Friday morning.
They saw fire engines, ambulances and bloodied classmates being pulled from the wreckage. First responders couldn’t save one girl, ejected through the front windshield of an Oldsmobile.
The gathered students watched as she was pronounced dead and covered with a blanket.
It wasn’t real, but organizers hope the mock drunk driving crash is a sobering wake-up call for seniors who might be tempted to party and get behind the wheel after prom tonight.
“We want to make sure everyone’s safe,” said Gary Wallin, a school board member and owner of Wallin Funeral Home and Cremation. “Over the years I’ve seen lots of kids killed because of bad decisions involving alcohol and drugs.”
Well-known seniors were chosen to play the parts of a drunk driver and the classmates hurt and killed in the crash. A make-up artist painted on realistic, bloody wounds. A crunched Oldsmobile and Buick were hauled in.
Students were brought to the site as if they’d stumbled on the scene of a car crash. They heard the 911 call and saw first responders arrive and try to save the passengers. They watched the driver fail a field sobriety test, be handcuffed and taken away.
Afterward, a few people shared personal stories of loss, including Cynthia Allen, a teacher at the high school and the club adviser of the school’s chapter of Students Against Destructive Decisions.
This kind of event is more likely to be effective in the short-term, Allen said. She does think it makes an impression on students, particularly the personal stories that are shared.
Allen talked about the June 1995 crash that killed Oak Harbor graduate Chrissy Priest and severely injured three of her friends. Priest and three of her friends were on a road trip after graduation to Disneyland. On the way, an impaired driver heading the wrong way on Interstate 5 hit their truck head-on in California.
“It was a long time ago, but it still affects their family, friends and classmates,” she said. “I know you’ll party but be smart. My brother works as an EMT. I don’t want him to pick you up.”
Senior Trevor Feinberg, 19, played the part of the drunk driver. He does think it helps.
“It’s really emotional seeing people getting carted off,” he said.
Some of his classmates do party, he said. But he doesn’t think it’s as prevalent as it was in the past.
“It puts things into perspective,” said junior Mily Larsen. She thought the majority of her classmates took it seriously, but “the one’s who didn’t probably are the ones who needed it most.”
Oak Harbor Fire Chief Ray Merrill organized the area fire and rescue agencies involved. It’s become a perennial event he hopes saves lives, even as he acknowledged that for some kids “it won’t matter one bit.”