A mock drill Thursday at Evans High School to dissuade students from drinking on prom night was designed to be shocking -- and in this case, maybe too shocking.
By the end of the exercise, one boy was loaded into an ambulance after suffering a facial laceration when he passed out and hit a pole, another girl fainted and was treated by EMTs and two others were on the ground, sipping water and trying to hold down a queasy stomach.
"I'm glad they took it seriously," said Drew Hess, one of the four victims in the mock accident who was extricated from the wrecked vehicle by firefighters using the jaws of life and was taken away on a back board.
"It's to show people the reality of what can happen -- it's not something that happens to people on the news, it can happen to your friends or even you."
Gold Cross EMS, the Columbia County Sheriff's Office, the Martinez Fire Department and Deputy Coroner Vernon Collins responded to the mock accident which was held before about 750 juniors and seniors two days before prom night.
"We hope they will understand drinking and driving is not a game and they will see what happens if you do," said Allison Young, president of Students Against Destructive Decisions. "It's sort of like shock therapy. You don't understand until you see it first hand."
The scenario for the drill involved four friends -- Katie Werrick, Marie Dabbs, April McNeely and Drew Hess -- who went to the mall after school the day of the prom and came across friends who were drinking. They joined in, then were racing home to get ready. Katie, the driver, attempted to pass a car on a curve, but lost control and hit a telephone pole.
"This is a very effective was of getting the message across. There is a high degree of realism in this demonstration. It commands the students' undivided attention as they watch the emergency crews work furiously to perform life-saving measures," said Gold Cross Captain Sandra Culver.
The front-seat passenger, April, was not wearing her seat belt and was thrown through the windshield and died. The two back-seat passengers were seriously injured and had to be extricated with the jaws of life. Katie, the driver, was not seriously injured, so she was booked at the scene and taken away by deputies to be charged with vehicular homicide.
Coroner Collins investigated the accident. April was placed in a body bag, then her body was loaded into a hearse.
"It was a good idea to put friends in there so we can associate it with ourselves. It seems more real," said Ryan O'Hagan.
Principal Don Brigdon said he feels the drill had a dramatic impact on the students.
"I think the message got through," he said. "As I was walking around, there were groups talking about it, some emotional kids got a little upset. It makes you think about it and that's what we want them to do."
Collins' daughter Jennifer was one of those watching the drill. She has a whole different perspective than her classmates.
"When something like this happens, my dad comes home upset, especially when it's a young person who's killed and he sees their parents' reaction when he has to tell them," she said.
Collins agreed that it's one of the hardest aspects of his job.
"The worst part is seeing the parents' eyes when they are notified," he said. "If they could just see how much they are loved and how much they are missed and what their parents are going through."
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