April 6, 2013

The reality behind make-believe

April 6, 2013 Staff Writer Susan Wagoner

It’s prom night. School is almost finished. The end of an era. The beginning of the rest of your life. Reason to celebrate.

The four seniors in the car were full of life when their adventure began. One might have been an all-star football player. One might have spent his entire school career hitting the books and earned a large scholarship that made it possible for him to attend college.

One may have decided to postpone college and work to help support a child. Maybe one of them had no idea about his future, but knew he had the rest of his life to figure it out. The case of beer they were sharing occupied the child’s car seat in the back. It’s nearly gone now.

Maybe the radio was playing and they sang along. Maybe they talked about the girls they had danced with earlier in the evening. It’s impossible to say what was on their minds when they crashed head-on into the other vehicle.

At that instant, the past was forgotten and the future will forever be defined as “life after the wreck.”

For the innocent driver of the other car, there will be no future at all.

The realities of driving while intoxicated were on display for the students of Salina High School Monday when a mock wreck was staged for their benefit.

Area first responders including Salina Police and Fire, Okahoma Highway Patrol, Mayes Emergency Services Trust Authority and Tulsa Lifeflight participated in the drama. Stephens Memorial Chapel also participated. T & K Towing donated both vehicles used in

the wreck and student council members played the victims.

High School Principal Honesti Williams said the mock wreck was staged in advance of upcoming prom events so students could be educated on what could happen when bad choices are made.

“I really believe it’s better to know than not to know,” Williams said.

Students watched as firefighters used the jaws of life to free victims trapped in the car. Nearby, troopers with the Oklahoma Highway Patrol were administering a field sobriety test to the driver, Jake Tolbert. From a distance, the sound of a helicopter was heard drawing attention away from the scene on the ground. Tulsa Lifeflight landed a short distance away and one of the injured was whisked away for “treatment.”

The innocent driver of the other vehicle, Brock Thomas, “died” in the wreck. After the wounded were rescued from the party car, emergency personnel carried Thomas to a nearby stretcher and placed him in a black body bag.

Salina Police Officer Josh Davis, who also serves as a volunteer firefighter, said even though the wreck was staged, the response from students was as real as it gets.

“This is training for us for the real thing,” Davis said. “It’s the real deal.”

After the mock wreck, Pryor firefighter Brandon Merritt, who also serves on the Salina School Board, spoke to students.

“The drunks never seem to get hurt,” Merritt said. “It’s always the innocent ones.”

Students were given the opportunity to question the first responders on the scene before Superintendent Tony Thomas addressed the group.

“We really wanted you to see the importance of what can happen,” Thomas said. “I don’t want my son to go through this just like I don’t want my students to go through this.”

Merritt said it is the job of first responders to save lives.

“It doesn’t matter to us whether you have money or not. Whether you’re popular or not. Who your parents are or not,” Merritt said. “It only matters whether you live or not.”

Thomas encouraged students to think twice about drinking, drugging or texting and driving.

“We put this together because we care about you. There’s always another option. You are not invincible,” Thomas said. “An incident like this will change your life, or end it.”

In addition to the mock wreck, students were given “drunk goggles” that simulate what vision is like when under the influence of alcohol. Students tried walking a straight line with the goggles on as well as driving a golf cart.

According to Williams, a casket will be on display as part of prom week later this month. Inside the casket will be a mirror and the message, “Don’t let this be you.”

Students participating in the mock wreck were Jake Tolbert, Brock Thomas, Brett Kerns, Ryan Humphrey and Dillon Gardner.

 

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