A sobering dose of reality for Dixie County teens
Published: Thursday, April 25, 2013 at 6:12 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, April 25, 2013 at 6:12 p.m.
CROSS CITY - The blood was fake, but it grabbed the teenagers' attention.
Dixie County High School students got a sobering lesson Thursday on what could happen if they choose to drink and drive.
The school, working with emergency service units from Dixie County and Cross City, simulated a drunk-driving car crash on the football field.
Although no one was harmed during the simulation, everything else was real.
“Everything here is exactly how we would do it in real life,” said Bethany Hicks, a Dixie County paramedic who coordinated the event.
About 500 students and a handful of parents and alumni watched emergency workers attempt to rescue the four Dixie County High School students who played the parts of crash victims.
The scene was already in place as students filed into the bleachers: a gray Buick, with two unconscious teenagers inside, T-boned by a beige 4Runner.
The driver of the 4Runner, knocked out and bloody, was thrown through the windshield from the impact and lay face down on the hood of the SUV.
Students heard a simulated 911 call, then waited for a few tense minutes before two fire rescue vehicles, two police cars and an ambulance drove onto the football field, sirens blaring.
“It seems like forever when you're at the scene waiting,” said Charlotte Lord, director of safety, facilities and special projects for Dixie County Schools.
An ambulance took one student off the field and a helicopter took another.
Rescue workers went through the process of arresting the drunk driver who caused the crash and cutting the wrecked car to free his prom date.
It was too late for her in the fictional scenario.
Amber Buzbee, 17, lay still and let rescue workers zip her into a body bag, fake blood splattered all over her sparkly green evening gown.
“It was a weird feeling,” the Dixie County High senior said afterward. “It gets to you.”
The Florida Highway Patrol investigated 12 fatal crashes in Dixie County last year. At least three of those involved drugs or alcohol, FHP Sgt. Tracy Hisler-Pace wrote in an email. Toxicology reports from another five cases were pending.
In 2006, a student was killed in a car crash over spring break. Lord said she suspects alcohol was the cause.
“Drinking and driving is critically serious,” she said, “and kids have such an invincible attitude of, ‘Not me, it won't happen to me.'”
Lord, a past principal at Dixie County High, said the school has staged the event every four years for at least the last 15 years.
The Dixie County Sheriff's Office, Dixie County Emergency Medical Services, Cross City Police, Cross City Fire Department and Dixie County Fire Rescue helped stage the event.
Tri-County Towing & Recovery provided the wrecked cars, and a white hearse from Rick Gooding Funeral Home took away the body bag with Amber Buzbee inside it.
Dixie County High is a small school. Most of the students watching the simulation know the five who acted out the scene.
Tyler Hopkins, 17, described how it felt to see his friend Austin Waldron, also 17, unconscious and covered in blood on the hood of the 4Runner.
“It wasn't great,” he said.
Tyler, a senior, isn't going to the prom on Saturday, but he said the simulation made him think hard about what it would be like if he actually lost his friend to an alcohol-related car crash.
Seventeen-year-old junior Kendell Copeland agreed.
“On Saturday night, if something like that happens, everyone is going to be devastated,” he said. “That's probably one of the worst things that can happen.”
Contact Erin Jester at 352-338-3166 or firstname.lastname@example.org