simulated auto deaths are hoped to save lives | ParkRecord.com

simulated auto deaths are hoped to save lives

Frank Fisher, of the Record staff

"I know who’s dying, I’ve met her before," said Park City High School senior Lani Alger, before seeing a staged accident dramatized by bloodied actors, created to make high school seniors think before taking a drink and driving. Alger was hesitant to see the person portrayed as dead.

Soon students will revel in graduation festivities that could quickly turn to tragedies after a few bad decisions related to alcohol.

Thursday morning, two mangled cars were unveiled to 270 soon-to-graduate seniors, sitting in bleachers on a grassy field. They watched as students from the drama club screamed and cried among the carnage and smashed cars, a scene most seasoned drivers have at some time happened upon, directed onward by rescue personnel.

Three fire trucks arrived on the field with blaring sirens and honking horns, four law enforcement vehicles circled the wreck, an ambulance pulled in and an Air Med helicopter circled then landed. Firefighters used the "Jaws of Life to extricate a motionless victim.

The Park City Fire District, The Park City Police, Summit County Sheriff’s Office, Air Med, Park City High School Parent Teacher and Student Organization, Park City School District, MED EFX, Olpin Mortuary, and the Park City High School Drama Club, did their best to recreate a tragedy that happens every day throughout the country, except, with this one, the results could quickly be reversed.

Students in the stands stared straight ahead, some looking sick. A few students joked and snickered.

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"We’ve been doing this at least since 1998, said Trisha Hurd, firefighter, paramedic and community relations officer with the Park City Fire District. "Some kids laugh this is heavy too much to deal with. They may be hesitant to show their emotions. But we hope it will be on the back of their minds on grad night."

"It’s a pretty moving experience," senior Bryce Sacks said, adding, "It puts things in perspective. Some students haven’t had a friend die. Students can have a feeling of invincibility, but kids here are really smart and able to make wise decisions."

PCHS senior Ian Dobrowolski, 18, moves slowly on crutches after watching his stepsister, Julie Ploana, a member of the drama club, lie motionless in the accident reenactment.

On March 19, Dobrowolski drifted off the highway, over corrected his car and crashed. No alcohol or drugs were involved in the accident. Nobody, Including Dobrowolski knows what happened. He was unconscious for six days with life-threatening injuries.

After the Docudrama concluded, Dobrowolski, his mother and Julie talked about the accident.

Julie recalled hearing the news at a friend’s home. "My mom called and said Ian’s been in a car accident. I knew I had to get home right away." I wanted to go to the hospital, but Ian was still in the air, and we didn’t know what hospital the helicopter would take him to."

Pam Dobrowolski, Ian’s mother was nearing the end of her work day when she got a call from her husband. She left work immediately, recalling when she got to a traffic light, her legs were shaking uncontrollably.

Ian opened his eyes on the seventh day. "I had no idea where I was. I had tubes in me so I knew something bad had happened. I found out it was a car accident. This whole docudrama it can happen."

Julie plans to go to nursing school.

After the Docudrama, students were directed to the Eccles Center to hear from the rescue workers who encounter alcohol-related accidents all too often.

Craig Weaver was a crew member on the Air Med helicopter that took part in the Docudrama. He has spent four years as a flight paramedic with Air Med, and eight years as a firefighter in Salt Lake City.

Wednesday, on impulse, he decided to take the microphone. He told students how at the age of 19 he was in an alcohol-related accident where three died. "My best friend died." The driver was crippled, he said. Weaver was in the hospital for 13 days with a ruptured spleen. As he recounted the accident, became emotional and at points was unable to talk.

Afterwards, he said that was the first time he had talked about the accident to a group. "I just had two beers. I think that’s all the driver had. The last thing I remembered was stepping out of the bar."

The accident inspired Weaver to become a paramedic. He sees tragedies every day, as helicopters respond only to accidents where victims have life-threatening injuries and time is critical. He said he tries not to think about the victims. He thinks only about doing his job as well as he can.

Mike Montoya is a substance abuse counselor at Valley Mental Health, who attended the Docudrama. He commented on how well it was put together, and how real it was. "Without a doubt, this could make a difference," he said. "This is the time of year for partying."

PCHS principal Hilary Hays said the Docudrama is presented to seniors every year before graduation. "You’ve got only one chance to get them," she said, adding that if students were to see it more than once, it would lose its impact. She thinks the Docudrama is the most effective before graduation, likely one of the most important transitions in a young person’s life, where celebrations are many, and can easily get out of hand.

Hays had this advice for parents whose kids are out late at night. "Call them. Do they sound different? Then there’s a problem. Do they not answer their phone? Then you could have a problem."