The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

May 13, 2010

Crash dramatization gives students a shocking view of what could happen if they make a wrong decision


Star Beacon

JEFFERSON — Broken glass, the smell of blood, pain- induced moans and cries for help. As you approach, you see the results of an automobile accident and see the victims, teen-agers who have just recently left their senior prom. As sirens become louder, you realize the magnitude of the situation and witness such bright futures end early because of one bad decision. This scenario is one that every parent is afraid of on prom night. This is where Officer Tim Blon and the rest of the Jefferson Emergency Services come in to help ease the fears that haunt many parents on the night of prom – a drunk driving car crash simulation for Jefferson Area High School students.

Every year many high school seniors enjoy the last event together as a class by attending their prom. This is a memorable night filled with great food, dancing and memories shared by all the young adults in attendance. But, as prom comes to an end, many soon-to-be high school graduates proceed to after prom parties and make decisions that could change their life forever. These decisions usually involve engaging in underage drinking and then driving. This is a reality that can put an end to the futures of many students.

In 2008, Ohio lost 34 teen-agers (ages 16 to 20) as a result of crashes with alcohol-impaired drivers at fault. Blon sees the crash simulation as a way to change the mentalities.

“Many schools have speakers and such, but no effect will be made unless they explicitly see the effects of their bad decisions,” said Blon.

Since 1996, the Jefferson Emergency Services have teamed up to give all attendants of the prom a first-hand experience of the very grave outcomes to drinking and driving.

“This is a scare tactic, it is a taste of reality as to what can happen when teen-agers get behind the wheel after drinking,” Blon said.

Every two years, the safety services in Jefferson team up with Jefferson High School to put on a mock car crash. Eight students are taken out of school, this year victims being Chaz Becker, Rachel Kalas, Kara Bloom, Jesse Kid, John Drews, Cassie Santiago, Ryan Byler and Mikenzie Schreiber. The victims were taken to the Jefferson Rescue to have makeup applied and be prepped for the “crash.” Two cars were donated by Roy’s Towing on Route 46 South in Jefferson and placed in front of the high school on West Mulberry Street.

Jefferson juniors and seniors approached the crash site to see the drunk driver, Jonathan Drews, dressed in a tuxedo donated by E.B. And Co. in Ashtabula and uttering slurred words. His prom date, Cassie Santiago, was dead already, her body laying halfway out of the windshield in a pool of blood. Chaz Becker, driver of the other car, appeared to be bleeding profusely and having a broken neck.

Police were first on the scene, calling in the fire department and two ambulances. The drunk driver, Drews, was questioned and taken into custody after failing his field sobriety test and having no grasp on his recent actions. All four rear seat passengers, Byler, Schreiber, Bloom and Kidd, were able to leave the vehicles under their own power. The Jefferson Fire Department then employs special rescue equipment to tear apart the car to access Kalas and Becker. Once accessible, Kalas was able to walk away on her own, but Becker’s neck injury prompted the need for a gurney. At this point, the sound of a helicopter could be heard. The University Hospital Medevac Helicopter, piloted by John Foster and Mike Boland, landed in the school parking lot in order to transport the critical Becker as fast as possible. Santiago was then pulled from the wreckage and placed in a body bag to be taken away. At this point, all that was left was blood, broken glass, and shattered memories because of one student’s bad decision to get behind the wheel of his 1988 Chrysler Imperial.

The effects of such a dramatic and realistic simulation can be seen in the crowd. Some students are unable to continue watching and must leave back to the school.

“I look around and see the shocked look on all the faces in the crowd,” Blon said. “I have seen kids get sick and even in tears at some moments. I hope that kids realize how terrible this is before it is too late. I just want to see every person that attended prom be able to be return to school on Monday. If this mock crash will change one person’s decision making that night, I see this simulation as a success.”

Even the students participating in the crash took the lesson to heart.

“It makes you think twice about the decisions you make on prom night,” said Bloom.

The past is a testament to the effectiveness of the program.

“Jefferson Rescue has never had to respond to a prom night call as a result of drinking and driving,” said Jefferson emergency medical technician Jim Brueggerman. “This is a good reflection of the community, kids doing the smart thing on prom night.”

“If this program changes one person’s perspective each year, then this event needs to continue,” said EMT Rebecca Wessollek. “Jefferson has yet to have a prom night crash and I think that we will not see one as long as we put on this mock car crash.”

With prom just around the corner for Jefferson students, the entire community urges students to realize the lifelong effects that one bad decision can have on numerous people. The Jefferson High School Prom Mock Car Crash is a scary lesson that is intended to show the students how lives can quickly be turned upside down at such a fun time in one’s life. Luckily, nobody involved in the “crash” was injured, but everybody walked away with different perspective on their prom night decisions.