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A tragic turn

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MILLENNIUM HIGH SCHOOL THEATER STUDENTS Maddie Wilcox, left, Taryn Landis, Sydney Rassas and Kayleigh Teschler take part in a mock DUI crash May 3 at the Goodyear school. To see all photos from this shoot, go to www.westvalleyview.com/pictures. View photo by Jordan Christopher
MILLENNIUM HIGH SCHOOL THEATER STUDENTS Maddie Wilcox, left, Taryn Landis, Sydney Rassas and Kayleigh Teschler take part in a mock DUI crash May 3 at the Goodyear school. To see all photos from this shoot, go to www.westvalleyview.com/pictures. View photo by Jordan Christopher

Goodyear police, fire simulate DUI car wreck for high school students

Silence filled Millennium High School’s football field as a student was driven away in a hearse May 3 during a presentation showing the dangers of driving under the influence.

Goodyear police and fire alongside theater students performed a mock DUI crash involving two cars leaving prom. After the cars collided, a frantic call into the police department triggered police and fire sirens to ring with the corresponding vehicles to follow and fill the field.

One student was extricated from a car and treated by firefighters and paramedics, then transported to a hospital by an Air Evac medical helicopter.

Another student lay dead in front of the crash as his mother was notified and asked to identify the body.

Four girls walked away with scrapes and scratches.

One girl was driving under the influence, smoking drugs and drinking alcohol the night of prom. The teen driver was administered DUI tests and had a breathalyzer read .17. The audience full of seniors applauded when the impaired student was taken away in handcuffs.

I caused all of this to happen,” said Katelyn Holt, 17, who played the impaired driver. “I was the drinker and I pressured the other people in my car to drink. I was the one who was driving everyone home from the party. I thought I was fine even though I drank alcohol and smoked weed.”

Although the scene was only a performance, the details and procedures were very real, said Don Host, school resource officer at Millennium High School.

We’re trying to amplify the message to the kids,” Host said.

The message was indeed amplified, Katelyn said.

I got the shakes because it felt so real when all of the police cars started rolling up and when they started cutting Nick out of the car. It was scary, but I’m glad we did it,” Katelyn said.

Nick Cusumano, 17, played the teen fighting for his life after being in the accident.

It was surreal and powerful,” Nick said. “The scariest part was thinking about how people actually have to do that in real life.”

He and the rest of the cast hope those who watched the presentation took it as a lesson and learned from other people’s mistakes so they don’t make the same one, he said.

I just really hope they took something from this,” Nick said. “They saw how it destroyed other people’s lives — I’m going to the hospital, someone’s dead and someone is getting arrested and charged with all of that.”

The mock crash was Goodyear’s way of preparing the teenagers for their May 6 prom and May 23 graduation, said Lisa Kutis, Goodyear Police Department spokeswoman.

Our hope is that if we reach even one kid who makes a decision based on this event not to make a bad choice to drink or do drugs and get behind the wheel of a car, then it’s worthwhile,” Kutis said. “We just feel it is so important to educate these kids on what can happen. One bad decision could change their life forever and the lives of their friends or family. The community and everybody around them is impacted by one bad decision.”

At the end of the presentation, Host spoke to the students reminding them that the occurrences are real and noted the Peoria car crash that happened that very morning when three teens were hospitalized and one teen was placed on life support after running a stop sign on the way to school.

It was a very timely and unfortunate incident for us to be able to send that message to the students,” Host said.

The main goal is to have youths think before they act, whether it’s consumption, getting into a car with a questionable driver, or being aware of their surroundings, Host said.

The hope is that they’re deeply impacted — that it hits them at an emotional level and they take that moment to think about the consequences of their actions,” Kutis said.

Goodyear’s police and fire departments try to hold one mock DUI crash a year and rotate through Goodyear high schools, Kutis said, adding that last year they presented to Desert Edge High School, and next year, they will be presenting to Estrella Foothills High School.

I hope this sticks with them for a long time to make them think twice about whose car they get in and about driving themselves. They need to be very careful because these accidents do happen and this is a very realistic way they could end up themselves — injured or dying,” Host said.

 

Kourtney Balsan can be reached at Kbalsan@westvalleyview.com.

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