April 27, 1996 in Nation/World

Mock Crash Drives Home Point Newport Hopes Simulation Will Keep Students From Drinking And Driving

John Craig Carla K. Johnson Contribu Staff writer
 
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The specter of an alcohol-related car crash that “killed” two popular Newport High School students will hang over the school’s junior-senior prom tonight.

And that is the point.

It was only a mock crash followed by a mock funeral, but school officials hope students will remember the drama played out by real teenagers in the roles of a drunken driver and his victims.

The simulation was intended to show in graphic terms that drinking and driving don’t mix. But according to national surveys, 14 percent to 27 percent of teenagers drink and drive at least once every two weeks. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration figures show almost 15 percent drive after consuming five or more drinks in a row, and car accidents are the No. 1 cause of death among teens.

But while students may forget the statistics, they’re not likely to forget the bloody image of Deseray Casteel, who supposedly died in her prom dress outside the high school. She was pitched through the windshield and sprawled on the hood when police arrived.

Like classmate Chris Coote, a passenger in the other vehicle, Casteel was “dead on arrival” at Newport Community Hospital. A badly injured Anna Cleaver was at the scene, screaming for help.

Moments earlier, all 450 Newport High students had been attending a school assembly in which two real victims from real drunken-driving accidents shared their experiences.

At the mock accident scene, emergency medical technicians began treating the victims. State trooper Gerrit Van Weerdhuizen gave field sobriety tests to student Nick Santilli. The teen played his role well: Van Weerdhuizen had to grab the teetering Santilli by the shirt to keep him from falling backward.

Santilli was supposedly driving the car in which Coote died. Uninjured, he was taken away by authorities to face drunken-driving charges.

Emergency crews had to pry Santilli’s mangled car open like a sardine tin to remove Coote.

Cleaver supposedly drove the other car. She was taken away by an ambulance along with two passengers.

The Newport hospital took advantage of the high school drama to conduct a disaster drill. Because she had to be at the hospital, Cleaver missed the instant funeral for Coote and Casteel, who is Cleaver’s best friend in real life.

Despite realistic makeup and the use of real emergency crews, the mock crash produced a lot of giggles and gallows humor.

“People are dying and all you can think about is being cold,” junior Brad Phillips quipped as sophomore Brian Stone complained about the chilly breeze.

The levity was expected, according to teacher Sally Silver, who advises an anti-drunken driving student group at the school.

“It’s a real typical teenage response,” Silver said. “It lets you deny the feelings that you are having.”

But junior Samantha Mumford said she will remember the program during the prom tonight: “It’s made me re-evaluate my priorities because I’m the driver.”

As for laughter at the crash scene, she said, “I think the body bags did something about that.”

Senior Shelby Beck said she couldn’t help laughing at the crash “because we already knew it wasn’t real,” but she was moved by the funeral that followed.

After Newport funeral director Curt Knapp placed an urn and pall bearers presented a casket, students saw a brief slide show that depicted the victims’ lives with actual family photos.

Seniors Matt Sawyer and Crystal Haughton delivered the same eulogies they might have written if their friends Coote and Casteel had actually died - and everyone in the audience knew it.

“I was close to bawling out there,” Sawyer said.

Haughton made some students and teachers weep when she remembered the gregarious Casteel as someone who touched many lives and would have been an Olympic skier or would have “broken every bone in her body trying.”

Haughton herself was shaken: “If she actually did die, it would be the worst day in the world.”

The Newport simulation was arranged by senior Eileen Newman, with the help of the East Region Emergency Medical Services and Trauma Council, which sponsors similar events across the region.

Similar presentations are planned Tuesday at Cusick High School, Wednesday at Gonzaga Prep, May 10 at Shadle High and May 28 at West Valley High.

Officials in the Central Valley School District canceled a presentation this spring after two recent fatal accidents.

Earlier this month, the mother of a Central Valley High School student died. During spring break, a University High student died in a bicycle-bus accident on Maui.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color Photo

MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: WHERE TO WRITE The National Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Drug Information publishes a variety of free material for parents and teenagers. Write: NCADI, P.O. Box 2345, Rockville MD 20847-2345. Or scan the resource list on the World Wide Web: http://www.health.org/

The following fields overflowed: BYLINE = John Craig Staff writer Staff writer Carla K. Johnson contributed to this report.

This sidebar appeared with the story: WHERE TO WRITE The National Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Drug Information publishes a variety of free material for parents and teenagers. Write: NCADI, P.O. Box 2345, Rockville MD 20847-2345. Or scan the resource list on the World Wide Web: http://www.health.org/

The following fields overflowed: BYLINE = John Craig Staff writer Staff writer Carla K. Johnson contributed to this report.


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