Mock car crash shows dangers of drunk driving

Published Apr 19, 2013 at 5:00 pm (Updated Apr 19, 2013 at 5:00 pm)

Kiara Kelnnelly was covered in fake blood and her prom dress was torn in several places as she stood in the parking lot of Seton LaSalle High School the morning of April 19. When asked to describe how it felt to be part of a mock car crash involving students on their way to the prom, she said, “It was really scary. (Firefighters) had to break out a window right next to me.” Her character was wheeled to a helicopter to be flown to a Pittsburgh hospital for treatment of critical injuries. Fortunately, she sat up on the gurney and walked back to the scene.

Kiara, 18, and a senior at Keystone Oaks, was one of several students from Keystone Oaks and Seton LaSalle High schools to participate in a mock car crash in the parking area outside of Seton LaSalle High School.

Emergency sirens wailed, red and blue lights flashed, and the sound of a circling emergency helicopter was carried on a strong wind as more than 500 juniors and seniors from both high schools, located across from each other on McNeilly Road in Mt. Lebanon, looked on from a nearby grassy slope.

There were two “fatalities,” complete with a boy and girl placed in body bags by members of the Allegheny County Medical Examiner’s office. To be as authentic as possible, the father and sister of one of the “dead” students were called to identify the “body.”

Lifeflight landed an emergency helicopter in a nearby field, and fire trucks from Castle Shannon, Mt. Lebanon, Green Tree and Dormont arrived at the scene to extricate two of the victims, including Kiara, from actual crashed vehicles provided by Steel City Towing. Emergency workers from Medical Rescue Team South performed fake CPR, “inserted” intravenous lines, and attempted to stabilize the victims.

The driver of one of the vehicles was given field sobriety and breath tests by a Mt. Lebanon police officer before being handcuffed. He was determined to be driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs and staggered off to a waiting patrol car. The scene was extremely realistic.

The simulated crash scene was part of the Prom Promise initiative and was organized by Students Against Destructive Decisions. Meri Beth Furlong, SADD coordinator and a biology teacher at Seton LaSalle, said the mock crash was the first such event she could remember in her six years at the high school.

Before the students witnessed the crash scene, each was part of an assembly conducted by Mt. Lebanon police Cpl. Jamie Hughes of the crime prevention unit. He also narrated the mock crash.

Also participating was Mt. Lebanon police Lt. Aaron Lauth.

“You can tell (teens) a million times, and their parents will tell them and medical personnel, but this is a good visual display of what could happen,” Lauth said. “We do see this type of accident.”

Josh Stuart is a paramedic with Medical Rescue Team South that provides medical services for six local communities, and like Hughes and Lauth, is an alumnus of Keystone Oaks. None said they drank or did drugs during their proms.

“I knew I wanted to (be a paramedic) and they hired me at 19 and I (didn’t drink) because of not wanting to lose my license, but also my career,” Stuart said. He will be a chaperone at the Seton LaSalle prom April 25 at the Omni William Penn Hotel in Pittsburgh.

Angela Fratrangelo, 17, and Alysha Kronz, 16, both juniors at Keystone Oaks and members of SADD, helped to organize the event with Angela saying it took about three months to arrange. Both are attending Keystone Oaks’ prom May 24 at the Marriott City Center in Pittsburgh and both have vowed not to drink or take drugs.

Danielle Redinger, 18, and a senior at Seton LaSalle High School, is also going to the prom and vowed to stay sober. So too, crash victim Kiara is going to the Keystone Oaks prom and said she would not drink.

“This (mock crash) scared me,” she said.

Keystone Oaks senior Sam Fisher, 18, was involved in the mock crash but was not a victim. She was with three friends who arrived on the scene in another car. Screams could be heard as the four prom attendees ran toward the crash scene.

“I was trying so hard to cry,” Sam said after the demonstration ended. The event hit Sam hard, even through she knew is wasn’t real.

“The first thing I wanted to see was how she was,” Sam said of Kiara.

Stephen Yamalis, 17, and a junior at Keystone Oaks, said he was asked by the SADD teachers if he wanted to participate. He said the mock crash was more realistic than he thought.

“All I could think of was, ‘I know all those people in that car,’” he said.

And, yes, he’s going to the prom, and no, he’s not going to drink.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in 2011, there were 11,805 alcohol-related driving deaths in the state, and, also in 2011, 26 percent of drunk driving deaths involved those between the ages of 16 and 20.

Thirty-one percent of all driver deaths for those between the ages of 16 and 20 were drinking drivers.

During prom, graduation and homecoming weekends, 47 percent of fatal car crashes of those 15 to 20 involved alcohol.

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