Wapakoneta Fire Department firefighters and paramedics personnel along with emergency personnel from St. Johns, Buckland and Cridersville assist with a mock crash Tuesday at Wapakoneta High School prior to prom this Saturday.
A parent’s worst nightmare.
Flashing emergency vehicles lights greeted the onrushing mother, who soon saw the carnage. Two vehicles badly damaged. Twisted metal. Blood and broken bones. Now broken lives.
“This is a parent’s worst night,” Martell said as she acted the part of a distraught mother arriving at the scene of a two-vehicle collision involving a drunk teen motorist after prom for Wapakoneta High School’s mock crash held Tuesday. “I didn’t have to act at all. You don’t have to look very far to have it happen to you directly, you know people where a drunk driver has dramatically changed their lives.”
Seven Wapakoneta High School upperclassmen served as actors in the mock crash aimed at discouraging juniors and seniors from drinking alcohol and especially not to drink alcohol and drive.
Martell agreed to play the role of the parent of a girl who dies. Law enforcement officers commended her effort as she did as a real mother would react in such a situation, trying to get around them at all costs to get to “her daughter.”
“Just waiting for my cue to go on you can’t help but remember classmates, there are few that came to mind, and you just felt, now as a parent, what their families must have went through and what it must be like to see real tragedy happen as a teenager,” Martell said. “It was very real to me.”
Martell, who has two high school-aged children — Cullen, a junior, and Shelby, a freshman — said, “This is truly a parent’s worst nightmare come true.”
While the scene was horrific, Martell pointed out a positive from Tuesday’s event and other efforts made to explain the dangers of drinking and driving.
“I think there is a lot more effort today to make kids aware of the importance of their decisions,” Martell said. “A teenager is a teenager, they have that feeling of invincibility that ‘you can’t be harmed’ attitude, but they can.”
Martell said she believes taking part in the mock crash was not lost on those playing the parts of the victims.
Those involved in the crash were Carli Sammons, Taylor Wohlgamuth, Austin Drake, Jocelyn Campbell, Cullen Martell, Cedric Gagel and Amy Wiles.
Drake played the part of the drunk motorist causing the crash, which injures the four people in a van and the two others in his vehicle. Wiles’ character is thrown through the van’s front window and dies.
“The kids were taking their parts very seriously,” Martell said. “I just watched them as they were getting their make-up on and they were really quiet at times, reflective, and some got teary eyed.”
For Cullen, Jocelyn, Taylor and Carli who were all whisked away by rescue squads, the event seemed “very real.”
“It made me never to want to drink and drive,” said Carli, who started the action of the mock crash with Austin calling him “an idiot” for driving drunk. “To be put in that neck brace and into that ambulance was so scary.”
Carli shared a hug with her mother, Diane Sammons, near Ryan Field as Amy was being placed into a Bayliff & Eley hearse in front of her classmates in the parking lot east of the school. She cried with her mother as they talked about how real the event felt.
“Knowing that my friends were hurt and dying was just awful,” Carli said. “I was so mad at Austin.”
Jocelyn tried to imagine what her mother, who was in the audience, was thinking and feeling as she watched her daughter attended to by area emergency personnel.
“Not knowing where I was was the scariest part for me,” Jocelyn said. “I just started crying.”
“I could hear people moaning and crying and knowing that I couldn’t do anything about it was the worst part,” Taylor said.
For Cullen, the worst part was having to hear his mother freak out as she played the part of Amy’s mother and realizing her daughter was dead.
“It was so sad and I was so lost because there was nothing I could say or do,” Cullen said.
While they said they realize the message of mock crash may not change everyone’s behavior, they have hope the message sinks in for at least a few.
“I think if we impact one person than it was all worth it,” Taylor said.
Cullen said looking at the faces in the crowd, he believes they impacted more than one person and he knows, “I won’t be drinking anytime soon.”
“I think people would learn to be more careful, not just if they were drinking, but looking out for other people who are,” Carli said. “I think people should learn to be a more defensive driver because you can be the best driver in the world but other drivers you pass on the road could be drunk.”
“It really makes you appreciate who you are with,” Taylor said, her voice dropping to a quiet tone. “We are all really good friends and it was really hard to see the others hurt and dying.”