The grim reaper visited Corona del Mar High School Tuesday, at the simulated scene of a triple fatality, two-vehicle collision.
The staged scene was part of “Every 15 Minutes” program at CdM this week. More than 1,000 kids watched the car crash demonstration.
“This is what could happen if you’re drunk driving,” said sophomore Jenny Conde, 15.“People could die.”
The 911 “call” came in at 10:15 a.m. Tuesday about an accident on Eastbluff Drive, near Alba Street. A Ford Explorer SUV was upside down and an Acura CL had its front smashed in.
As the scene unfolded, the only conscious victim was the Acura driver, CdM senior Ricker Hausam. He pleaded for his passenger, classmate Natalie Sullivan, not to die.
Also involved in the mock accident were juniors Zoe Condon and Ben Palitz.
Newport Beach police and fire departments responded to the call and assessed the scene. The grim reaper circled the area.
Condon was dead on arrival and both Sullivan and Palitz were transported to the hospital. Sullivan died at Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian and Palitz died en route.
As they questioned him, police learned that Hausam had five or six beers before getting behind the wheel. He took a field sobriety test and was arrested for driving under the influence.
“I‘m sorry Natalie,” he yelled to Sullivan as she was placed on a stretcher and into the back of an ambulance.
Later in the day, Hausam was arraigned in a mock trial at the courthouse, where one of the parents of the deceased gave an impact statement.
“Even though it’s not real, it’s very emotional,” said NBPD school resource officer, Vladimir Anderson.
Conde and fellow sophomores Sabrina Sadeghi and Caitlin Martinez, both 16, all agreed.
“It was pretty scary,” Sadeghi said.
The demonstration explained the very serious consequences of driving drunk, Conde said.
“It’s very shocking,” she said.
“And the person behind the wheel has to live with the guilt,” Martinez added.
All three knew at least one of the students involved in the car crash scene, which made it all the more real, they agreed.
It definitely helped the message sink in, Sadeghi said.
This is the first year the sophomore class has been included in the program.
“This impacts them as well,” Anderson said. “They’re beginning to get behind the wheel at that age and unfortunately they can get involved in alcohol-related incidents.”
The grim reaper also pulled 22 students from class on Tuesday before the demonstration. The “walking dead” represent people killed in alcohol-related traffic accidents every 15 minutes in the U.S.
The participating kids also visited the hospital, morgue and cemetery.
The program also included a parent meeting on Monday. Moms Paige Goble, Jill Yank, Julie Carter, Bono Pozin and Cindy Brahs, all attended the meeting and the car accident demonstration.
“It’s also important that we educate the parents.” Pozin noted.
About 60 parents attended the parent meeting.
“We basically discussed the issue of underage drinking and drugs that’s affected our kids in the community,” Pozin said. “The whole reason (to hold the meeting) was to open up communication.”
On Wednesday, the kids were shown a video of the entire event, attended funerals and heard eulogies for the students that were “killed.”
“It’s a very impactful program,” Pozin said.
There isn’t much that shocks the youth of today, said Anderson.
“You have to do whatever you can to make it impactful and hopefully it reaches some of them,” he said.
“It doesn’t just end today,” he continued. “It hopefully opens a dialog between parents and their kids, and it’s important that we continue because alcohol consumption and obviously DUI’s are plaguing our society, and in our community. I encourage parents to talk to their kids about getting behind the wheel.”
The total cost of the program is about $12,000, paid for by a NBPD grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety, through the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, and PTA funds. GNW Towing donated the cars. Makeup artists from Knotts Berry Farm applied the realistic makeup on the injured students.
Each year the event alternates between CdM and Newport Harbor high schools.
For more information, visit every15minutes.com.