As firefighters, paramedics and law enforcement officials rushed to the scene and a medical helicopter roared overhead, students from local high schools observed with wide eyes a staged two-car accident involving four fellow high school students as part of the annual Prom Promise event – a warning of the dangers of driving drunk or distracted on prom night put on by local emergency personnel.
Students from Hillsboro and Lynchburg-Clay high schools attended the first staging of the event Friday morning, while students from Fairfield and McClain high schools attended later, observing a chaotic scene unfold as emergency crews did their work – stabilizing and extracting passengers while a highway patrol trooper issued a field sobriety test to one of drivers, who was placed under arrest and put in the back of a patrol cruiser.
At each staging, an actor portrayed the mother of one of the passengers as a trooper informed her of the accident.
Paint Creek Joint EMS/Fire Chief Bradley George addressed the students afterward.
“This happens every day,” he said, gesturing toward the smashed vehicles. “I’ve been there before. I’ve had to put my stepsister in that helicopter before.”
Lt. Stan Jordan of the Ohio State Highway Patrol Wilmington Post warned the students of the dangers of driving while distracted or under the influence, reminding them that seat belts save lives more often than not.
Jordan said he has seen many similar accidents where fatalities could have been avoided if those involved had made better choices, such as putting their phones down or choosing not to drink and drive.
“I wish I could forget some of the things I’ve seen in 27 years,” he said.
Lauren Lutton-Freeman, a Hillsboro High School graduate, spoke to students of her experience in a drunk driving crash in 1995.
Lutton-Freeman said she was a senior in high school at the time, and had skipped class to meet her boyfriend for lunch. On the way back, she said her car was struck by a drunk driver, causing extensive damage to her vehicle and nearly killing her – noting that the crash occurred before noon on a weekday.
“People don’t just drink and drive at night,” she said.
Lutton-Freeman said the accident left her in the hospital for two months, requiring many extensive surgeries, including 25 facial reconstruction operations. One surgery, she said, took 15 hours. She had to learn how to walk and talk all over again after the accident.
“This didn’t just affect me,” she said. “This affected my whole family.”
Lutton-Freeman said most people are aware that accidents happen, but few realize it could happen to them at any time.
“It can happen,” she said, “We have choices that affect us. Your choices don’t always just affect you… You guys have one life.”
Fire and EMS personnel from Highland County North Joint Fire and Ambulance District, Lynchburg Area Joint Fire and Ambulance District and Paint Creek worked the scene alongside deputies and troopers with the Highland County Sheriff’s Office and OSHP.
T&G Towing of Hillsboro donated the vehicles.
Reach David Wright at 937-402-2570, or on Twitter @DavidWrighter.