The headline, "One dead in crash, teen arrested for OVI" could have appeared in the daily papers were Friday's two-vehicle crash at Poland Seminary High School for real. Fortunately, it was all an act, staged to show a real rescue and what could happen on prom night.
The crash is part of a pre-prom program that is a joint effort of the school, the Western Reserve Joint Fire District, and the cooperation of local emergency forces. It began at 1 p.m. Friday with an hourlong assembly in the school auditorium that features law enforcement and fire rescue personnel speaking on the dangers of drinking and driving, texting and driving, and not wearing a seat belt.
While the assembly was going on, crews in PSHS's front lawn were setting the stage for a mock two-vehicle crash. Two wrecked cars were donated by Gobel's Towing of New Springfield. The cars were arranged to simulate a head-on crash.
Photos by J.T. Whitehouse, Town Crier
Poland junior Andrew Lumpp plays the victim of a prom drunk driving accident, demonstrating where one could end up by not wearing a seat belt.
Poland juniors Brianna Bianconi, Taylor Ashton, and Brenna Gebhardt were joined by junior Andrew Lumpp as WRJFD EMT Jessica Mosur applied theatrical blood to their face, arms and clothing. The three girls are members of the prom committee, which helps put on the event.
While the students were being placed in the wrecked vehicles, volunteer and former Poland fire Chief Sonny Chinowth began checking the details of the staged event. He served as safety officer with a special task.
"I volunteer to ensure the event goes down without problems," he said. "We don't want anyone really hurt."
At 2 p.m., the assembly inside is complete and the juniors and seniors begin filing out into the school parking lot. The actors are in place as a smoke machine simulates a crash that just happened.
As the program begins, WRJFD fire prevention Officer Bill O'Hara begins narrating the scene. He tells students a crash like the staged one before them can happen when one drinks and drives, or texts while driving.
As the scene begins to unfold, Gebhardt jumps out of the driver's side on one of the vehicles. She runs around the crash scene in a nervous frenzy checking on Lumpp, who went through the windshield, and on Bianconi and Ashton, who seem trapped in their vehicle.
Minutes go by, then Poland Township Police Officer Tom Johnson is first to arrive. He checks on the drivers and vehicles to determine medical needs.
Shortly after Johnson arrives, the rescue trucks of the WRJFD arrive in force. Their first mission is to extinguish the fire (simulated smoke) then trained first responders attend to the medical needs of the victims. While they are treating the three students still in the vehicles, Johnson pulls the driver (Gebhardt) aside to talk to her. He detects alcohol and gives her a field sobriety test that she fails. At that point, Johnson places her in handcuffs and escorts her to his cruiser.
In the meantime, the WRJFD crews work on the victims. Bianconi and Ashton are covered in thick blankets as another team begins cutting the roof off the car.
"It was really scary," said Ashton.
"I had no idea the roof was being cut off," said Bianconi.
Once the roof was off, the two girls were lifted out on backboards and taken to a Rural Metro Ambulance, which drove them away. Lumpp was pulled out of the car on a backboard as the Stat Medvac helicopter landed in the parking lot. Within a few minutes, he was loaded and the helicopter took off.
A fifth body was covered with a sheet to signify death. The body was actually a training dummy from the fire district.
The whole scene took 25 minutes and demonstrated the actual amount of time such an accident would take to clean up. O'Hara closed the event by telling students to be responsible not only during the prom season, but every time they get behind the wheel of a vehicle.
The simulated crash was the second time for the program. O'Hara said they try to do it every other year before the junior and senior classes. He said it also serves as a great training exercise for all the safety forces involved.
"We had 20-plus volunteers involved," O'Hara said. "Our department uses it as a training exercise so they can better be prepared when the real situation arises."
As for the students, the message had been delivered. Bianconi said, "We don't want to be in that situation, ever."