SILVER CREEK - Silver Creek High School students learned the emotional lesson of what could happen when someone drinks and drives.
"Prom is coming up, graduation is coming up and the rest of your life is coming up. This is something you will remember for the rest of your life," High School Principal James Klubek promised Tuesday morning before the demonstration of a fatal crash.
Silver Creek is one of four schools in Chautauqua County that were able to hold this kind of presentation this year. Klubek said the last time Silver Creek hosted a Mock DWI fatal crash was around 10 years ago.
Mock DWI at Silver Creek
High school students from seniors to freshmen were brought to the auditorium and later outside to witness the possible consequences of drinking and driving.
"It is a good lesson even for you freshmen because we may not be able to do this again before you graduate," Sheriff's Deputy Thomas Delcamp said.
The demonstration began with members of the group Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) acting out two scenes; the first a party with students playing board games, the second with students playing beer pong.
OBSERVER Photos by Nicole Gugino
Top: A record number of police and fire department members turned out to demonstrate to Silver Creek High School students the possible consequences of drinking and driving.
Above: An assembly left several students in tears after witnessing the possible consequences of drinking and driving.
At the first party, two girls leave for home. At the same time, a boy and girl leave from the drinking party, also on their way home.
The presentation then moved outside to the scene of the crash, said to be at the corner of Route 5 and Washington Street in the village of Silver Creek.
First on the scene of the head-on collision between a car and pickup truck were the Silver Creek Police to clear the scene. Sgt. Steven Romanik exited his car and escorted the driver from his truck to the police car as fire trucks and an ambulance from Silver Creek and Sunset Bay fire departments arrived.
Firefighters and EMTs ran from their vehicles, making sure the vehicles were safe and pulling victims from the vehicles.
A girl's body was pulled from the car and covered with a sheet. Chautauqua County Coroner Warren Riles was called to the scene to inspect the body.
Firefighters then had to use the jaws of life to extricate the other two girls from the vehicles. The first was taken by ambulance to the hospital. The other was taken from the car and loaded into the waiting Starflight helicopter.
While the injured were cared for by emergency personnel, Sgt. Romanik conducted field sobriety tests on the driver of the truck, who failed and was taken into custody.
Although many students found the beginning of the presentation comical, the mood became much more subdued and even tearful.
"Some might think this is funny, it's just an act, but this happens all too often," Lt. James Quattrone said.
The presentation resumed inside at the hearing in front of Hanover Judge Walter Klyczek.
The presentation panned over to Coroner Riles for the call to the dead girl's parents for funeral arrangements.
"There is no easy way to tell someone that they've lost a loved one, but it must be done," Riles said.
Next, the judge appointed the driver a public defender. Unable to make bail for his class D felony charge of vehicular manslaughter, he was sent to jail.
Over the loud speaker, a WDOE broadcast of the incident was played, reporting on the accident and the outcome.
The presentation ended with a funeral. The victim's best friend gave a eulogy saying tearfully she is loved and missed.
Many students were in tears by the end.
Senior Rebekka Lawton in particular said she was "bawling" seeing the scene with the casket draped with her jerseys and her senior picture.
"Look at your best friend and say you're not here tomorrow ... and when I say you're not here tomorrow I mean forever ... Imagine the grief you'd feel," Deputy Delcamp said.
The school district supported this demonstration to teach students in a different way. "It is our hope that this emotional assembly will leave a lasting lesson for our high school students, impacting the decisions they make," Superintendent David O'Rourke said later at the school board meeting.
Sgt. Romanik and Deputy Delcamp wanted to emphasize to students that drinking and driving can have deadly consequences and to make "wise choices."
"If you're out partying and you end up with the keys, call someone ... You'll get a lot more respect from your parents (if you called) than if you were charged with DWI," Delcamp said.
Klubek and O'Rourke, on separate occasions, both thanked SADD members Liz Nasca and Ron Hasson as well as student/actors Cody Hehir, Jennifer Phillips, Emily Mirek and Katelyn Plecker for their hard work and the responding police and fire departments.