POLAND – Days before their prom, juniors and seniors from Poland’s Central School District witnessed the full implementation of the Do’s and Don’ts, as local law enforcement and firefighters participated to a simulated fatal car accident caused by impaired driving.
Herkimer County Sheriff’s Deputy Heather DuPont, a security patrol officer in Poland, said she hoped the intense footage of the mock crash, like a student in a body bag and a student in a stretcher on helicopter, will help the other students to learn a lesson from the experience.
“Just to have that sense of reality and make them think twice,” said DuPont. “I know it’s a simulation, but I hope they take it seriously now, so something like that doesn’t happen.”
The mock accident took place on Wednesday 12 May in front of the central school district of Poland. The event was part of a full week of activities leading up to the Poland Prom on Saturday May 15 in Dolgeville.
DuPont coordinated the mock crash, and Polish junior Shelby Rommel and seniors Kade Ozog, Hunter Houghtaling and Rickelle Wright performed as students involved in the crash. Ozog’s mother, Becky Ozog, also participated as the mother identifying her son in the simulated storyline.
Police, fire and ambulance vehicles responded, including staff from Poland Volunteer Fire Co., Newport Volunteer Fire Co., Herkimer County Sheriff’s Office, State Police New York and the Kuyahoora Valley Ambulance Corps. A LifeNet helicopter from New York City made two landings and takeoffs at the scene.
Newport Firefighter Shannon McEvoy, who retired from the Ilion Fire Department as Deputy Chief, provided feedback and insight to students throughout the mock crash.
Judge Malcolm Harris and lawyer Karen Mowers conducted a mock indictment inside the school following the mock accident. The local WE Autenrith Sons Inc. funeral home helped organize a mock funeral. Creekview Automotive in Poland donated the cars that were used and cut.
Jocelyn Rauch, music teacher in Poland and co-advisor to the Drama Club, disguised the alleged injuries to the students, and the audio system and cameras used were managed under a BOCES Technology partnership agreement.
“It really gives awareness to the result that we don’t want them to achieve,” said Greg Cuthbertson, director of PK-12 in Poland. “Yes, we want you to have fun at the prom, but it’s also important to be safe.”
The arraignment and mock funeral took place in the school’s new theater. Harris spoke to students before it started and said that during his career in law enforcement the hardest thing he had ever had to do was tell families that a loved one had died of a drunk driving accident.
He spoke about New York State’s zero-tolerance drinking and driving policy, which includes a $ 250 fine and loss of driver’s license for up to one year.
DuPont has organized several days of events around a “live to enjoy memories” theme. Students rode scooters while wearing glasses designed to simulate alcohol impairment. Another day, several students took a code of silence for the day by carrying a “cause of death” sign.
Every 52 minutes in the United States, someone dies from impaired driving, DuPont said.
Donna Thompson is the Times Telegram’s government and business reporter. For unlimited access to his stories, please subscribe or activate your digital account today. Email him at [email protected]