HORSE CAVE – Although she had just been in a fake car crash, Dora Eze began screaming as if it was the real thing.
“Please! Help Me!
Eze, a senior at Caverna High School, was “stuck” inside one of the two vehicles involved in the mock collision Wednesday afternoon in the parking lot behind the high school. While she was calling for help from the front passenger seat, the driver – portrayed by senior Rosie Ochoa – was motionless on the hood of the car with a cell phone resting in her hand.
Caverna students stood in the grass on the edge of the parking lot and watched their classmates live out this nightmare scenario. A call was made over the radio, asking for local emergency crews to respond to a 10-46, which stands for an accident with injuries.
A few minutes later, sirens became audible in the distance, growing louder and louder until a Cave City Fire Department truck appeared, along with an ambulance from the Hart County Emergency Medical Service. The Cave City and Horse Cave police departments, Kentucky State Police and other area first responders were also on the scene.
For the purposes of this demonstration, Ochoa had been texting-and-driving before impact, while the driver of the other vehicle – senior Anthony Lindner – had been “driving impaired.”
After he exited his car, Lindner found himself face-to-face with the CCPD, and he was given a sobriety test before he was “arrested.” Senior Sincere Page was the passenger in this car. He, along with Eze, were transported from their respective cars on stretchers.
Ochoa's character wasn't as lucky. She was "pronounced dead."
A helicopter was called to the scene and landed on the football field. Eze's simulated injuries required her to be evacuated through the air – though a practice dummy was actually transported away in the helicopter.
“It's a lot to think about,” Eze said after the simulation was over. “I was in the ambulance and I saw the mock dummy. They pulled it out to go to the helicopter.
“That could have been me.”
Eze said this was a difficult experience for her since she has had a friend die.
“I was thinking about him, and I actually started crying,” she said, adding that this was an “amazing and scary” experience.
Since Caverna's prom is coming up, Eze said she hopes seeing this simulation will persuade her classmates not to drive impaired or distracted.
Page said this was a good experience.
“It really opens your eyes about drunk driving and people texting,” he said. “It makes you realize how real stuff is, and how, in a flash, it can happen to anybody.”
Although Page was carried away on a stretcher for the simulated injuries, he said he was told he might not have made it out alive.
“They said I probably would have died waiting on the ambulance,” Page said. “Because I didn't have a seatbelt on, my head would have hit the windshield and it probably would have been fatal for me.”
Page said since Caverna is a small school, “everybody knows everybody, so if something like that happened here, I feel like it would be very tragic because we all grew up together and we've known each other for a long time.”
“It should be very eye-opening to a lot of people," he said.
Lindner said this experience was very educational.
“It teaches a lot about texting-and-driving and drunk driving – things you shouldn't do,” he said, adding that it shows potential consequences of sending a quick text message.
“That two seconds can cost your life,” Lindner said.
While she was lying on the hood of the car, Ochoa said she was thinking about how this type of situation could actually occur in real life.
“This could happen,” she said. “It was so surreal.”
Before the students experienced the mock crash, they gathered in the gym and listened to several speakers including Kevin Poynter, battalion chief for the CCFD; Jeremy Pedigo, a paramedic with Hart County EMS; Charles Webb, Caverna's school resource officer; and Jeremy Hodges, KSP public affairs officer.
Hodges spoke to the Glasgow Daily Times about the importance of this simulation.
“It's a very serious situation and it's a reality,” he said. “It doesn't matter if you're a teenager – if you're 18 years old, and you choose to get behind the wheel of a car, and you're drunk or you're high on drugs, then the consequences are very real.
“Someone can die and never come back. There's also prison time that can be waiting for someone if they cause a serious physical injury or death as a result of them doing drugs or driving drunk.”
CHS Principal Chase Goff thanked all of the first responders for volunteering their time and also thanked Wilma Bunnell, coordinator for the Family Resource and Youth Services Center at Caverna Independent Schools, for helping put the event together.
Goff also addressed the students.
“I pray that none of you all ever have to see that in reality,” he said. “But I do think it's good in an instance like this to give somewhat of a feeling of what that's like.”