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DARE Mock Crash: It takes a Community to Stop Kids from Drinking & Driving

May 27, 2014 12:21PM ● By Teri

The mock accident also included a funeral for the two students who died, and a trial for the student who was driving drunk.

On the morning of May 20, the mood was quite somber at Bellingham HighSchool. A terrible crash had just occurred and students were trying to come to grips with the fact that one of their classmates had been killed and several others badly injured. Fortunately, the entire scene was staged. This spring marks the ninth year that the school and fire department have teamed up to present senior class students with this unusual form of education. Every year just days before the prom, the Bellingham Fire and Police departments, medical professionals from Milford Regional Medical Center and volunteers, spend a morning showing high school seniors just how bad the consequences of drinking and driving can be.
The students really had no idea what to expect as they filed into the school parking lot. Members of the fire department asked them all to face the woods while a recording of a car crash was played. When they turned back around, they saw two seriously damaged cars (provided by Marty’s Auto Service in Bellingham) that had just been involved in a head-on collision.
Passengers, stunned and covered in blood, were in a state of panic, especially when they realized that one of the drivers wasn’t breathing. Empty beer cans rolled out of one of the cars onto the ground. In seconds the fire, police and EMTs arrived on the scene. After an assessment of the students’ injuries—the kids had been made-up to look bruised, cut and bleeding—several of the students were strapped to boards and taken away in ambulances. Student crash victims included Emily Cotter, Sean Postler, Katie Postler, Ryan Postler, Katelyn Coelho, Austin Nunn, Mike Alexander and Hunter Reget. 
Perhaps the toughest moment was when the EMT announced that one of the drivers, Sean  Postler, was “dead.” His bloodied arm and head were hanging out of the driver’s side window before police covered him with a cloth. Then the “dead” student was put into a body bag, which was then put into a hearse provided by Cartier's Funeral Home.
Reget, the student responsible for the crash, was arrested, handcuffed and placed in a police car.
The enactment seemed to hit home, and students remained unusually silent while watching what could easily have been a real crash.
The group was then led into the school auditorium, where there was another staged scene, this time, an emergency room; doctors and nurses worked feverishly to try to save crash victim Emily Cotter. Unfortunately her injuries were too severe and the ER doctor pronounced her dead. Shortly thereafter the girl's mother, played by BHS SADD advisor Melissa Newman, was told that her daughter had died, and she became hysterical. Newman was very convincing as a grieving mother when she came onto the stage, begging the doctors to do “something more.” But it was too late and the mother sobbed loudly.
Next came the scene in the courtroom, where the drunk driver was found guilty of vehicular manslaughter and drunk driving. He was sentenced to two consecutive six-year prison sentences and told that when he got out of prison he would be on probation for an additional 15 years. He would not be eligible to apply for a driver's license again until he reached age 43.
The performance even included a double funeral scene, complete with two caskets, on stage.
Newman, who coordinates the event every year, said she hates playing the role of the heartbroken mother because it gets to her every time. "Kids think they're invincible, but every single day a crash like this takes place somewhere. With this program we hope the kids will learn what can happen when destructive decisions are made."
The idea for the mock crash was started in 2006 by Chris Mach, a Bellingham Firefighter who had seen a similar event at another high school. "We tweaked it a little bit and brought it to Bellingham. We take it to the max to get the message across," he said, adding that even if one child makes the right decision because of it then all their efforts are worth it. The program is mandatory for all seniors. Officer Len Gosselin, the school's resource officer, said, "Though it can be a bit gruesome, it's a way to get students to open their eyes about the consequences of drinking and driving."
Newman said she chooses well-rounded students to participate every year. This year, because they’re so well-liked, Newman chose Bellingham High's Postler triplets—Kate, Ryan and Sean. Volunteer make-up artists Katie Piazza and Heidi Schmidt, who often work with Mach, got there early to make the students’ injuries look as realistic as possible.
School principal Peter Marano thinks the mock crash is just frightening enough to help kids recognize the dangers of drinking and driving.
story & photos by Teri Borseti,
Bulletin Contributing Writer

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