WELLSVILLE - Two Wellsville High School students were killed Wednesday in a two-vehicle crash on Bengal Drive that also left several students injured and resulted in two being arrested.
Fortunately, the tragic accident was just a simulation aimed at teaching students to be safer drivers, and no one was actually injured or arrested.
Put on by the Wellsville Fire Department, the annual event also involved firefighters from Calcutta, Glenmoor and Liverpool Township; village police officers; the Lisbon post of the Ohio State Highway Patrol; Tri-County Ambulance; and STAT MedEvac helicopter.
This realistic accident scene is what first responders and students found as the fire alarm sounded this week for a simulated crash aimed at convincing young people to enjoy their prom but to stay safe. (Photo by Jo Ann Bobby-Gilbert)
As students gathered in the high school parking lot, the village fire siren sounded, announcing as it does in real life that two vehicles had hit head-on.
Student "victims" trapped inside the car were made up with a variety of injuries that kept them immobilized as firefighters began the arduous task of removing doors, windshields and roofs to extricate them.
Meanwhile, a medical helicopter circled the parking lot, preparing to land and take on one of the victims while police officers administered sobriety tests to the two student "drivers."
What may have looked like mayhem to the students was the actual scenario of a crash scene, according to firefighter Tim Long, who narrated, telling the students, "We never know what will be involved (when they arrive on a scene)."
The students saw the evidence of that first-hand as not only firefighters but ambulance personnel - who are often also volunteer firefighters - were brought into the rescue effort, helping with the extrication so they could get the victims onto waiting backboards.
They also saw the lengthy process of removing both living and dead victims from a tangled piece of metal.
Junior Codie Jackson was one of the students "killed" in the crash, and she said it was "pretty cool to be in a body bag," but she was in the minority, with the other students expressing their apprehension at what they experienced.
"I was in there shaking. I'm still shaking," victim Shayla Hall. She also found herself under arrest after being made to perform several sobriety tests, as the drunken driver of one of the vehicles.
Junior Dante Colella said sitting in the vehicle while it was carved apart by a Jaws of Life was actually the scariest part of the exercise for him, saying, "It made me think."
Colella was removed from the wreckage and taken aboard the STAT MedEvac helicopter, which actually flew him from the scene.
Later, he lightened the mood a bit by admitting to his fellow students that he had taken a "selfie" (cell phone photograph of himself) while flying.
Tri-County EMT Marty Thorn addressed the crowd of students, telling them, "In 2011, 32,637 people didn't make it where they were going. That's seven times the population of Wellsville."
He said such a crash is a life-altering event with the best-case scenario that a victim ends up with a minor injury and $50,000 in emergency transport fees, whereas the worst-case scenario means a lifelong disability from an injury or death.
"It's one of the scariest events you'll ever be faced with," Thorn said.
Speaking from experience, teacher Robin Weeda agreed, relating her own accident en route to class one morning when her vehicle was struck by a drunk driver, pinning her inside for 90 minutes.
The driver, who had no license, gained his fifth OVI arrest while Weeda's injuries kept her from working for three months.
"It can happen to you, so be careful," she warned.
Sgt. Craig Wetzel from the OSP told the students, "We want you to enjoy your prom season, but we want you to make wise choices. (The participating agencies) are here today for a reason. They want you to be safe."
He admitted, "We never get used to rolling up to this stuff," and cautioned students that they do not want to have the death of another person on their conscience the rest of their lives.
Long pointed out it is not always impaired driving that causes such crashes but actions as simple as taking a "selfie" or texting, all of which he said can wait until they get home.
"Pay attention to what you do. Get home safe," he urged.