Seniors watched in silence as their peers stumbled out of crumpled cars, screaming, crying and bloodied — all the result of a drunken driver getting behind the wheel.
The Klahowya Secondary School event — a mock crash — included two crashed cars, one dead body and one severely injured passenger. The driver in the vehicle of the deceased showcased vivid emotions between screaming at the drunk driver and holding her friend until his last breath.
Shortly after, medics arrived and a white sheet was placed over the body. Airlift took away the drunk driver’s severely injured passenger. The “drunk” driver was arrested for DUI.
Senior Brooke Bennett, 18, said she had difficulty watching the mock crash because she personally knew all the actors.
“I just hope it won’t happen to anybody,” Bennett said at the end of the event, wiping tears away. “I’m really glad they do this so we can see the emotions of it. It’s a real thing.”
On the eve of prom, local law enforcement and MADD members wanted to drive home the subject of not drinking and driving. In total, five senior drama students portrayed the actors in the vehicles and played out a real-life scenario of a car accident where one driver was drinking. With graduation celebrations coming, community members voiced concerns about parties and warned students about drinking and driving repeatedly.
The counseling staff at the high school organizes the event, bringing in various community members and guest speakers to talk about the effects of drinking and driving.
“The most impactful part of this event is students watching their peers be involved in a fatal car crash,” said Sara Lindberg, Klahowya’s school counselor. “We have a very small, tight-knit community in our school and the students spend a lot of time together. Every student in the senior class had a personal connection to one of the students involved in the event.”
Only seconds before the blue tarp was taken off the vehicles, students sat listening to audio of a party and of the students getting into the cars to drive away. In one car was a drunk driver and passengers; in the other car were students who had only drank soda at the party.
A poem read by the deceased male blared over the speakers as he was carried away in a body bag. The poem was for his mother, describing to her the pain he felt upon dying and asking why he had to pay for a drunk driver’s decision.
By the end, students had heard from Washington State Patrol troopers, the county coroner and a woman who lost her mother to a drunk driver at the age of seven.
“Unfortunately this is happening every day,” said Greg Sandstrom, county coroner. “I’ve seen more than my fair share of young people in the autopsy room.”
The mock crash comes shortly after the death of a 20-year-old Olympic High School graduate passenger who was involved in a drunk driving crash off Central Valley Road.
The crashed car, a barely recognizable Mazda Speed 3, sat crumpled behind the high school for students to look at on their way inside to listen to guest speakers.
Although the somber mood quickly enveloped the class of 158 seniors, the event almost always creates an impact that lasts through prom and graduation, said Marsha Masters, Target Zero manager.
“Hopefully these kids can make an impact on their peers,” Masters said of the actors. “Hopefully they’ll remember this not only now, but in five years, 10 years.”