N.Y. First Responders Stage Mock Crash for High School Students
June 07—WHITESVILLE—There was a mix of hypothetical and real situations when police, firemen and EMTs staged a mock-DWI fatal accident Friday at Whitesville Central School.
As they have periodically done at other school districts, first responders wanted to expose students to the impact of a fatal crash that happens because a driver chose to drink before getting behind the wheel.
Independence Officer P.J. Sherman said there were three people in the vehicle as rescuers were arriving in addition to a "fatality"—student who was ejected from the car. Independence firefighters arrived and began to cut open the car to free victims and Independence EMTs arrived. State Police and the sheriff's department arrived soon, as did Allegany County Coroner Bud Baker.
Sherman told the students that after a real-life crash, officers such as himself or Trooper Chris Smith, who also spoke during the exercise, have had to go to a family's house to tell parents that their son or daughter was just in a crash.
"We have to be the ones to break the bad news to them. We've had to do many of them in the past and it's very sad," he said. "It changes everybody's life. The driver has ruined his life, period."
Friday's crash may have been staged, but the Whitesville students heard an account of one woman's response to a real fatal. It happened about 25 years ago and involved Andover students.
Mary Nevol, who was an ambulance crew member, gave an emotional recollection of what was going through her mind when the call came in that day. She told the crowd her nephew was in Andover's graduating class that year.
"Either the night before graduation or the night of his prom, we had an accident where a young man was killed," she tearfully remembered. "I'm the one who got called out of bed at 2 o'clock in the morning to come to the hospital ... to X-ray these victims. I was met at the hospital by one of the men I was on the Ambulance Corps with. I was also an EMT at the time. He said to me 'You need to be prepared for this, because these are all Andover boys.'"
Nevol said she asked whether any of the victims was her nephew and was told he wasn't involved.
"I still knew those boys. One boy was deceased. One boy spent the rest of his life in a nursing home... He has since passed away. He was the driver. There are other boys... I'm not going to name them, who have lived with this the rest of their lives. Twenty-five years ago, I remember walking in there and seeing the condition of those boys. This doesn't leave you, guys. It doesn't leave you."
District Attorney Keith Slep spelled out the range of potential legal ramifications had Friday's mock accident been real.
"We'll start with the best-case scenario. If this driver were impaired by drugs and alcohol and there were no fatalities, it's at the very least a crime and a DWI, aside from all the financial penalties and the facing of up to a year in jail. If he's under 21 and has any sort of impairment, he's going to lose his license until at least the age of 21. It's up to DMV after that," Slep said.
"In this case, where we have a fatality, with any kind of drug or alcohol impairment to whatever extent, this is automatically a felony. It's at least a manslaughter case...which is state prison time," Slep said. "That's in addition to all the additional financial penalties that happen with a regular DWI. If he's had any other alcohol or drug involvement while driving...it's even more time and more fines and more penalties."
If and when a driver gets his or her license back, the DMV can require installation of an ignition interlock device for a number of years, the district attorney noted.
"You have continued financial penalties, because the state will charge you, once you get your license back, $250 a year because you're an at-risk driver. For a very long time, if you're able to get your license back and get out of prison and get a job and are able to afford a car...you're going to have insurance costs that are well above everybody else," he said.
"DWI, driving, killing somebody, is the gift that keeps on giving to yourself for the rest of your life, most likely," Slep said, sarcastically.
Allegany County STOP-DWI Coordinator Linda Edwards talked about her role as an educator who raises awareness and gets people thinking about the choices they make.
"Our STOP-DWI slogan, our branding, is 'Have a plan. Get a ride. Don't drive," she said." We do these mock crash scenes because we want to raise awareness. We want people to be thinking. At your age, you need to know the potential consequences of bad choices. We know you want to have fun, but do it safely. When you're of legal age, have a plan so you can get home safely and not have parents and other family members and friends impacted by a scene such as this."
___ (c)2017 The Evening Tribune, Hornell, N.Y. Visit The Evening Tribune, Hornell, N.Y. at www.eveningtribune.com Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.