HOUSTON – Houston High School students watched CareFlight transport one of their classmates to the hospital during a mock crash Wednesday morning and heard a grieving mother recount an experience she wishes wasn’t real.
Approximately 200 students, freshmen through seniors, watched as the aftermath of a crash caused by a drunk driver played out in a parking lot behind the school. Brian Bates, the outreach manager and a flight nurse for CareFlight, narrated as the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office, Houston Volunteer Fire Department, Spirit Medical Transport and CareFlight rushed to the scene and simulated the steps they would take during a real emergency.
“Unlike TV shows and the movies, the events you’re seeing are happening in relatively real time,” Bates said. “Things don’t happen quickly. You don’t get injured and EMS is on scene 30 seconds later and you’re off and basically better within the hour at the hospital. This is a very real thing. So think right now, you’re having trouble breathing. Breathing is becoming very difficult, and you’re gurgling with blood in your chest. That is the pain these victims Alexis and Dana are going through right now while they’re waiting for help.”
Houston seniors Dana Gillem and Alexis Sowers portrayed occupants of a pickup truck who were injured in a crash caused by a drunk driver, who was portrayed by fellow Houston senior Liam McKee.
McKee exited his car and stumbled around the scene while Gillem and Sowers lay motionless in the truck.
McKee was handcuffed and placed into a sheriff’s cruiser while firefighters used the Jaws of Life to extract Gillem from her vehicle. She was stabilized and loaded into a helicopter that landed in a grass field near the school.
“I was once in your shoes not too long ago thinking it can’t happen to me,” Bates said. “Unfortunately it can happen, and I’ve seen it happen to my own friends, I’ve seen it happen to my own family members. Fortunately I haven’t lost someone in a car wreck, but I’ve been at someone’s side when they’re dying, and there are no words. There’s nothing I can do to make the pain of the family and the person dying feel any better. It feels like the most helpless situation.”
Someone who knows the feeling of losing a loved one, Laura Cruea, followed the mock crash by telling the true story of her son Joey Seger, who was killed in a wreck on Sept. 21, 2010.
“This is my son’s senior yearbook – Miami County fatal crash report,” Cruea said, holding up a binder. “This is what I got for my son’s senior yearbook.”
Seger was a senior at Piqua High School when he was killed in a crash on state Route 718 in Miami County. A woman, who reportedly was high from huffing compressed air, lost control of her vehicle and slammed into the truck in which Seger and his father were traveling.
“Her decision changed my life forever,” Cruea said. “The Laura that went to bed on Sept. 20, she died the next day with Joey. I will forever be a grieving mom.”
Cruea now is the state chair for Mothers Against Drunk Driving and gives presentations about the dangers of driving while intoxicated. She is a featured speaker at the mock crashes that CareFlight presents during prom season.
“Time does not heal all wounds, guys,” Cruea said. “I will always be a grieving mom forever. I would do anything in the world to have my son back.
“Because she made a horrible mistake, I don’t have Joey anymore. And when I want to go see him, I have to go to the graveyard and look at the stone with his face on it. I don’t get another hug. I don’t get another memory. I don’t get anything.”
Houston High School hosted the mock crash in advance of its prom on Saturday. The event was organized by the school’s Family, Career and Community Leaders of America group, which is advised by Abby Pleiman.
The FCCLA also hosted a school assembly last week with Leah Fullenkamp, who gave her In The Blink Of A Fly presentation about the dangers of distracted driving.
“All of our decisions that we make have consequences,” Houston High School Principal Jeff Judy said. “And the last thing that I would want to see is for any of you guys to make a decision or be part of someone else’s decision that’s going to impact your life not only for today, tomorrow but the rest of your lives.”
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