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OHS students get a 'wake-up call'

"Students at Olympic High School witnessed the bloody aftermath of a alcohol-fueled automobile crash last Friday.Although it was not a real accident, event organizers told the OHS sophomores and seniors in attendance that the incidents and their results are too common to ignore.Sponsored by the Students Against Destructive Driving at Olympic and Mothers Against Drunk Driving of Kitsap County, the sixth annual mock crash brought in representatives from the Kitsap County Sheriff's Department, Washington State Patrol, Central Kitsap Fire and Rescue, Kitsap County Coroner, CenCom and Airlift Northwest to mimic a deadly accident involving high school students.After hearing recorded sounds of a car leaving a party, the more than 800 students watched as the fatal remains of a large orange pickup and blue Ford Mustang were unveiled, while the sound of a 911 call played on the public address system.The passenger of the Mustang shrieked in terror as the vehicle's driver lay lifeless in her arms, and the pickup's driver staggered around the area with a drink still in her hand, trying to find out what had happened to her vehicle and passenger.Sgt. Michael Merrill of the Sheriff's Department, who narrated the scenario, detailed the duties of the first paramedics on the scene, which include identifying the people involved and asking questions about the incident.The audience's demeanor quickly changed from jovial to solemn as CKFR firefighters covered the Mustang driver with a white sheet and sealed in a body bag.Deputies administered a field sobriety test on the driver of the pickup, who was then handcuffed and led from the scene. Then a Harborview Hospital-bound Airlift Northwest helicopter arrived to tend to the other two victims, which did nothing to lighten the mood.Merrill, who previously worked in the traffic division of the Sheriff's Department, told the students about the severe impact such fatal accidents can have on everyone involved with the situation, including friends and family.Every single one of you becomes a victim, he said. But somebody in this situation isn't going to get a second chance at life.Although teens often believe such an event could never happen to them, Merrill told the audience such an attitude was not realistic.This is something that happens much too frequently, he said. I've lost track of all the ones I've gone to.Marsha Masters, SADD advisor and a physical education teacher at Olympic, told the teenagers the most recent similar incident involving an OHS student took place in 1993 on Central Valley Road.That was probably the worst time in my teaching career, she said. I want every one of you back so you can go through prom and through graduation.The two teenagers in the Mustang - senior Scott Armstrong and junior Katherine VanBerkom - said they hope their real-life status as a couple made the effect of the presentation even more vivid for their peers.It was really upsetting, said VanBerkom, who began crying when firefighters tended to Armstrong's body. Just the thought of him being dead was scary.Armstrong said he saw the mock crash when he was a sophomore, and thought it would be a good way to encourage responsible behavior among his fellow students.It was kind of a wake-up call, he said. A lot of the students know about us, so I hope it would have an impact on them.Although she is not old enough to drive - much less drink - sophomore Shawn LeBoeuf, who portrayed the driver of the pickup, said the role was truly a sobering experience, which she hopes the audience picked up on.I'm sure they saw how emotional it is, she said. It was definitely a feeling I don't ever want to have to experience again."

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