By MORGAN MANNS
FOR THE COURIER
FOSTORIA — As graduation approaches and the school year comes to an end, area officials are sending a message: “No distractions while you drive, and you’ll keep yourself alive.”
Students at Fostoria Junior/Senior High School organized and presented a two-vehicle mock crash to their peers Tuesday morning at the school in an effort to demonstrate the effects of driving under the influence and not wearing a seat belt, and how those decisions can have life-shattering consequences.
“Even if it helps just a few kids, then it’s all worth it,” said Ellen Groves, assistant adviser to the Youth-to-Youth student group.
The scene was set as two vehicles full of students, on their way to and from graduation parties, collided after an impaired driver — portrayed by Tony Lear — lost control. Those in the audience watched as those able to get out of the vehicles did so.
Throughout the mock crash, Groves and Sgt. Jordan Schwochow with the State Highway Patrol detailed what happens during a crash and immediately afterward.
“All passengers who were not restrained by seat belts were off their seats” after the crash, Schwochow said.
The force of the crash would have caused Trey Groves, the driver of one vehicle who was not wearing his seat belt, to hit the steering column and be ejected from the vehicle, ultimately causing fatal injuries, Schwochow said.
Caleb Brough, a backseat passenger in Groves’ vehicle who was also not wearing his seat belt, was thrown forward through the car, landing on the hood with fatal injuries.
Schwochow said crashes can bend and crush vehicles, jamming car doors shut, which can trap someone inside the vehicle, such as Elisia Ledesma, the front-seat passenger in Groves’ vehicle.
Area emergency crews, who were in on the mock crash, treated it like the real deal. They waited around the corner to be “dispatched” to the scene.
Fostoria Fire Division crews took care of the mock injuries, extricating the trapped Ledesma from the vehicle and prepping Olivia Hill-Hernandez, a front-seat passenger in the at-fault vehicle, to be taken away by medical helicopter. She was also not wearing a seat belt and was thrown forward into the dashboard where her mock injuries included broken ribs and a punctured lung.
Fostoria police Sgt. Clayton Moore spoke with Tony Lear, who played the at-fault driver, who was wearing a seat belt and suffered minor injuries.
Schwochow said the at-fault driver in crashes such as this could be charged with vehicular homicide, a fourth-degree felony. If convicted, the driver could spend five to 10 years in a state prison, be fined up to $2,000, and lose their driver’s license for life.
“What you have seen today is a dramatization, but it is a very accurate one,” Ellen Groves told the audience of students. “This type of crash happens many times each year right in our area. The occupants in these vehicles thought that this could never happen to them. Remember, it can happen to you.”
As a final touch, Mann-Hare-Hoening Funeral Home employees arrived in a hearse to take the “deceased” away.
The mock event ended with officials saying that they aren’t trying to scare students, but to make them aware of the dangers of distracted driving and to remind them not to text and drive, eat and drive, consume alcohol at their age, use illegal drugs or abuse prescription drugs, and the need to wear seat belts.
“Whether you’re driving or in the car, we just want you to make smart decisions,” Principal Drew Bauman said. “Loss is real and it affects in so many ways the people you are loved by and those you love. Be responsible and be careful.”