|San Jacinto News-Times - Local News
Stories Added - April 2010
Copyright 2010 - Polk County Publishing Company
Deadly accident scene depicts consequences of drunk driving
San Jacinto News- Times
COLDSPRING – Offi cers, emergency medical services and fi re fi ghters rushed to the scene of a deadly accident Wednesday about 10:30 a.m. at Coldspring-Oakhurst High School. While the scene was staged the effects were horrifyingly real, leading those in the vicinity of the high school wondering what was happening and depicting a scene to high school students of what can happen when one gets behind the wheel and attempts to drive while drinking. The Shattered Lives program was coordinated by volunteers from the community coming together with one goal: to educate young people at an opportunistic time just before high school seniors will be preparing for prom night and celebrating graduation. Alcohol is a factor in about four out of every 10 deaths from car crashes, drownings, burns, falls and other unintentional injuries, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. “We’ve all done it – gone to pasture parties out here where teenagers were drinking,” said San Jacinto County Sheriff’s Secretary Rejeana Mizell, organizer of last week’s Shattered Lives program. “It’s nothing new.” The powerful two day program is intended to help students and the community understands the tragedy of how an alcohol related accident can affect an entire community. Students experienced the real life timing and results that drinking and driving can have on the whole community by learning fi rst hand about the devastating consequences. From the families of the victims, the emergency service providers, to the funeral homes and wrecker drivers, the effects were demonstrated in a very real life way. The program was supported and choreographed with the help of the sheriff’s department, Department of Public Safety (DPS), fi re department, emergency medical services, PHI Air Medical, funeral home, judge, school offi cials, counselors and volunteers. “Once agencies arrived on the scene it was worked just as if it were the real deal. The only difference is that everyone was staged in town and waiting for the call. It ended like any fatal wreck scene would with the dead taken away by Pace Stancil Funeral Home and the injured taken away by helicopter and ambulance,” Mizell said. “All student participants were taken away from the school to an overnight retreat in Huntsville. They were not allowed to have any contact with anyone other than the counselors at the retreat. This is to simulate them being killed in an accident for them and the parents,” Mizell said. At the retreat they are able to debrief with the counselors and do several alcohol awareness activities. They read letters prepared earlier from their parents regarding how the parent would feel it they really did lose them and then they wrote their parents back a letter about what they got out of the experience,” Mizell said. “Students were brought back to school the next morning to the mock memorial. At the memorial juniors and seniors along with participants and their families watched a video of the prior day’s events, which was followed by several speakers,” Mizell said. Speakers were DPS Troopers Shelly Lee and Chris Cain, Pct. 1 Justice of the Peace Beth Sewell, two student participant speakers Jacob Mizell and Ashley Calderon, parent participant speaker Candy Yeager, Mothers against Drunk Drivers (MADD) representative Kathy Snyder and Matt Vaglica from Beaumont. “At the end of the program the casket was opened and a mirror placed inside. All students were asked to file pass the casket to pay respect,” Mizell said. “It was something the juniors and seniors will hopefully remember for a long time. Prom and graduation are coming up soon and if we changed the minds of any of those students who were planning to drink and drive then we have done our job,” Mizell said. Commenting on the program, Coldspring-Oakhurst Consolidated Independent School District Superintendent LaTonya Goffney said, “It was an amazing experience. Students did a wonderful job of the reenactment. I was actually in tears as were many. It was hard to realize the reenactment was not true. It was a powerful dramatization and the mirror in the casket as each student filed past was a powerful way to end the program.” Agreeing with Mizell, Goffney said, “If one life is saved by the program then we can say it was all worth the effort.” “I thought the program was good for people to see how fast your life can be changed by making one bad choice,” said Coldspring-Oakhurst senior Steve Watson. “My parents have always impressed the dangers of being behind the wheel. I know my parents would come get me if I made the choice to drink.” “The program showed me that a person behind the wheel has to have responsibilities. The driver has to be cautious of all surroundings, including people in the car with you,” said student Victor Alders. “They presented a memorial for the dead and as you die the parents cry and the kid cries too because it showed what would really happen in an event like this,” Alders said. “I’ve never really seen a real car accident in person from a drunk driver. I’m going to be very, very aware from now on,” he added. “I thought the program was good and more of an eye opener because it involved people we know and not a stranger that we don’t know. That made it more emotional,” said student Dillyn Blair. Next year Mizell said she hopes the Shattered Lives program can be presented for juniors and seniors at Shepherd High School.