With artificial blood splattered across her forehead and real glass sticking to her arm, Jordan James got a close-up glimpse at emergency responders as they worked on a simulated two-car crash in the Chartiers Valley High School parking lot.
The junior was eager to play a “victim” in Tuesday afternoon’s mock crash demonstration that was supposed to teach students the dangers of drunken driving and being reckless behind the wheel. That is, until two workers from the Allegheny County medical examiner’s office zipped her up in a body bag.
“That was really scary,” she said.
Dave Harhai, who teaches government studies at the high school, said they conduct the mock crash every two years right before prom so juniors and seniors can see what happens at an accident scene. He said it’s a powerful image that teachers hope will stick we students.
“The whole idea is awareness,” Harhai said. “This is to raise awareness of not just drunken driving, but also reckless driving. Hopefully, after today, maybe some of them take (driving) a little more seriously when they get behind the wheel.”
That point was hammered home when two Collier police officers whizzed into the high school parking lot and found the wreckage and injured motorists. Soon after, ambulances and fire trucks from across the school district arrived at the scene with lights flashing and sirens blaring.
The firefighters and medics quickly surrounded the cars and began using the jaws of life to pry open the doors and remove the “injured” passengers. Meanwhile, the officers took one of the drivers and conducted field sobriety tests before putting him in the back of a police cruiser.
Joe Wissel Jr., who is Heidelberg’s fire chief and director of the Kirwan Heights EMS crew, organized the mock crash and said it is good practice for the emergency responders. Although it doesn’t totally replicate an accident scene, it forces the rescuers to work quickly and carefully.
“The difference here is we can’t stop if we make a mistake,” Wissel said, contrasting it to normal training. “You have an audience. You just have to push through any obstacles.”
One of those obstacles included wasps that had found a home in one of the junked car’s sideview mirrors. The firefighters sprayed a can of WD-40 into the mirror and continued with the simulated rescue.
Not much was left of the already battered cars by the time the firefighters ripped off the doors and roof. Harhai, who is a deputy fire chief in West Homestead, hoped the site of mangled cars would cause the students to think about the consequences of reckless driving.
“Hopefully, you go home and learn a little bit from this,” Harhai said to the students. “We just want to make sure everyone gets back to their homes as safe as can be.”