(Star Beacon (Ashtabula, OH) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) April 26--ANDOVER TOWNSHIP -- A little planning and some high tech video equipment personalized the "mock crash" experience for more than 400 students on Friday afternoon at Pymatuning Valley High School.
A video of students drinking at a party shown in classrooms throughout the school kicked off the experience before students took a walk outside into a light rain where they viewed the aftermath of a two-car crash that included six victims.
Ohio State Highway Patrol Trooper Scott Balcomb explained the crash site to students and gave detailed statistics about fatal crashes and the high percentage of people 16 to 20 years of age involved in crashes on a yearly basis.
"I've been doing this for 14 years. We see this (crashes) every day," Balcomb said. He said he lost four of his high school friends to fatal crashes.
Balcomb said there were 45,175 crashes involving 16 to 20 year olds last year and 68 percent of the teens were at fault. He said motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for people in that age group.
Loud sirens broke the relative quiet of the rural community as Andover Fire Department and Community Care Ambulance vehicles raced to the scene.
Students watched as a sheet was put over the body of a crash fatality while other students were cut from the two vehicles strategically placed in the school parking lot.
The light rain added to the somber nature of the occasion. "I think the rain added to the atmosphere," said Ashtabula County Sheriff's Deputy Lee Hunt who helped organize the event.
"I like the fact that the kids seem engaged," Hunt said.
As the students watched the emergency workers remove the victims from the crash scene Ohio State Highway Patrol Trooper Erik Souders conducted a mock sobriety test on Ryan Plummer, one of the student actors that participated in the project.
As Plummer was handcuffed and taken to a waiting patrol car, the Pymatuning Valley media class filmed the event and prepared for a mock broadcast when the students returned to class.
"I hope this sends a really strong message," Hunt said. He said the high tech video connection helps personalize the experience for the students.
Pymatuning Valley Superintendent Michael Candella said safety is the most important task of a school district. "Anything that helps the kids conduct themselves in a safe manner we will support," he said.
Balcomb said students often shed a few tears watching the realistic mock crash scenes. "You'll see some crying," he said.
The timing of the event was to connect with the Pymatuning Valley High School prom that is scheduled for this evening.
Hunt said the event took about two months to plan and included cooperation with the Ashtabula Count Sheriff's Department, the Saybrook Post of the Ohio State Highway Patrol, the Andover Fire Department, the school district and Community Care Ambulance.
Sophie Hockran, a freshman actor that played one of the victims, was visibly shaken during the mock crash and said it would definitely effect her future choices.
"(This is) crazy. It's an eye-opener," Hockran said.
Organizers hope there were a lot more eyes opened during the presentation.
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