DIXFIELD — Students watched intently as more than 20 emergency personnel responded to a mock two-car collision on Harlow Field that involved the “death” of one student and “injury” to several others.
Tuesday afternoon was a time for young people to see what could happen if someone drinks and drives. It was the brainchild of Jason Hyde, a Dixfield Fire Co. firefighter who, with Dirigo High School social worker, Jessica Swan, organized the event.
“I understand this is how this can happen,” said Justin Jasper, a freshman from Peru. “My mom was in an accident when she was 14 and she still has problems. I think it (the mock demonstration) changed a lot of people’s ideas about drinking.”
That’s the hope of teachers and administrators as the prom approaches May 8 and the graduation takes place on June 11.
Principal Michael Poulin said staff will follow up with students during advisory group meetings to field any questions or concerns.
“The kids get to see things they don’t normally see,” he said, adding that a few were excused from witnessing the mock accident because they had experienced an accident themselves.
He was grateful to the firefighters from Dixfield, Peru, Mexico and Rumford, as well as to Med-Care Ambulance Service and the Dixfield Police Department, most of whom volunteered their time.
The event cost the district nothing because everything was donated, he said.
Kassandra Bryant, a high school senior, said the 30-minute demonstration made an impact on her.
“I hope it affects other kids,” she said.
So do Cassie Moretto, a senior who is a junior firefighter for the Dixfield department and Myriah Porter, a junior firefighter from the the Peru department. Both girls played major roles in the accident scenario.
“We hear about so many accidents,” said Moretto, a senior who hopes to become a full-fledged firefighter after graduation.
Justin Richards, a junior who played the boy who drove the vehicle that “injured” two young people and “killed” one, was “arrested” for manslaughter.
“I hope this had a negative effect on everyone. We all know friends who have been involved in accidents,” he said.
Med-Care Director Dean Milligan set the stage for the scenario — two teens were returning from the prom and the party afterward. The driver had been drinking. His vehicle drifted into the lane of three teens who were returning from the movies. The second vehicle veered off the road and slammed into a tree, killing the girl in the passenger side, severely injuring the driver, and causing minor injuries to the teen in the back seat. The intoxicated driver and his passenger weren’t physically injured.
This was the first time such a program was presented to the entire 318 student body at the high school.
Home economics teacher Karen Phair said many student accidents have occurred over the years, including those with serious injuries. She estimated it’s been about 18 years since a student was killed in an alcohol-related accident.