Graphic docudrama warns against DUI
June 25, 2008 · Updated 11:50 AM
"Photo: John Cruz, Christina Parker, and Mike Cotton remove Ryan McElwain from the hood of a car during Thursday's docudrama at South Whidbey High School. McElwain played a fatality victim.Matt Johnson/staff photoAt about 10:30 a.m. Thursday, emergency medical personnel from Fire District 3 lifted a high school boy off the hood of a wrecked car in the South Whidbey High School parking lot. The boy had lain for nearly 15 minutes with his head in a pool of red and his feet still partially stuck inside a hole in the car's windshield. As the aid workers zipped the boy into a plastic body bag, other medical professionals cut open two damaged cars pushed grill-to-grill, then extracted another high school boy, a young woman, and a 9-year-old boy. They put all three into neck braces and onto stretchers. The woman and the boy left the scene in an ambulance. The high school boy left in in medical evacuation helicopter headed for the mainland.Not far away, a high school girl shrieked and cried, and had to be restrained by an Island County Sheriff's deputy. Only one high school student who had been in one of the two cars was able to stand. She was one of the drivers, and had to spend about 10 minutes taking a sobriety test from a Washington State patrol trooper.All the while, more than 400 high school students sat on bleachers, watching the scene in silence.Just two days before the school's prom, South Whidbey High School students received visual reinforcement Thursday of the Don't drink and drive message they have been hearing since before they could walk.The accident scene in the school's parking lot was a docudrama, complete with made-up actors, real fire fighters, medical personnel, and law enforcement officers. Sponsored by South Whidbey's Reduce Under Age Drinking grant from the Washington Traffic Safety Council, the realistic theatrical production was a gory lesson in self preservation.Mike McInerney, the school's drama teacher, narrated the production. He said there is nothing accidental about a motor vehicle collision caused by a drunk driver. Anyone who causes a motor vehicle accident while under the influence of alcohol is a criminal.We do not refer to this as an accident, McInerney said. It was not an accident. There was a conscious choice to drink and then to drive.The drama played out over nearly 30 minutes. When it was finished, the students filed into the school's auditorium to get a second dose of shock treatment. Diedre Britton, a Clinton resident, told the student body about her son, Jeremy. Jeremy died in a one-car automobile accident in Snohomish County in 1998. Fifteen years old at the time, he was a sober passenger in a car driven by a drunk, 23-year-old man. He died when the car struck a pole at more than 100 m.p.h. The driver, who had a blood alcohol content of 1.8 percent, survived and was later sentenced to three years in prison.Standing alone in a spotlight on the auditorium's stage, Diedre Britton said she only has two things to remember her son by -- a photograph and an urn containing Jeremy's ashes. To this day, she said she still has trouble believing her son is dead, even though she held his hand while his body lay at the funeral home.I held his hand it and it was so cold, Britton said.Drunk driving does not just affect other people, she said. It can strike anyone, even on South Whidbey.Believe me, it's more real than you know, Britton said.Attorney Peter Moote also spoke during the assembly, telling the students what sorts of penalties they can expect if they are caught drinking underage. Most penalties include the loss of a driver's license.Students who attended docudrama and assembly were visibly affected. Many shed tears during Diedre Britton's talk.It made me cry, said junior Laura Walsh.The visual provided by the mock accident scene was also effective, according to junior Christine Greene.It was very sobering for everybody, she said.Senior Tommy Blanchard did not feel the drama of the morning's events in any genuine way, but he said he got the point.It made me think. It was effective, Blanchard said.The docudrama and assembly were the final major events funded by the RUAD grant. The RUAD committee credited the law enforcement officers, FD 3 personnel, actors, medical personnel, business owners, and local church members who participated with the event's success."