BEACON FALLS — Every Woodland student who enjoyed last weekend’s senior prom made it safely back to school this week, perhaps thanks in part to an experience they shared the day before prom.
Last Thursday, senior Cal Brennan staged a program for his senior project in advance of the prom to warn fellow students about the dangers of drinking and driving.
But it wasn’t just any program—Brennan organized a mock three-car accident complete with actors, police, fire and ambulance personnel and apparatus, vehicle extrications, a funeral director and a Life Star helicopter.
“I wanted to do this to show everyone that doesn’t know me too well what I enjoy doing and to hopefully get a message across from my perspective,” Brennan said. “I’m the same age as the kids that are seeing this and I used what I have seen over my experience with the fire department.”
Woodland’s junior and senior classes spent the last hour of the school day watching the event on the school’s soccer field as the happenings on the field were narrated by Beacon Hose Co. No. 1 public information officer Jeremy Rodorigo.
The program started with a bystander, played by Aurora Dzwonkowski, emotionally surveying the scene of a bloody, three-car crash with multiple victims and a fatality.
First on scene was resident state trooper Anthony Cipriano, who made an assessment of the situation before finding the driver responsible for killing a victim was intoxicated. He administered a DUI test to Jeff Casolo before taking him into custody.
After Casolo was removed from the scene, fire and ambulance apparatus filed onto the field to begin extricating two victims from each of the other cars while the dead victim, played by Vicky Kecskes, lay motionless on the hood of the third car.
“It was really tough,” Kecskes said. “I’m even surprised I stayed still for that long. I couldn’t believe how hot it got, especially when I couldn’t move for so long. I even got tan lines on my arms and back from the fake blood.”
Over a dozen firefighters worked to cut the doors and roofs from the vehicles, as it would be done on the scene of a real accident.
Ashley Breive, Shayna Keckler, Tom Crossley and Ally Tuohy all waited inside the vehicles with minor injuries before they were removed one by one and loaded into ambulances.
Then, a Life Star helicopter from Hartford Hospital was called onto the scene and landed in the middle of the field before funeral director David DeBisschop arrived in a hearse to load Kecskes into a body bag.
Kecskes said she thought students understood the reality of the situation she was acting.
“I think the event was great for the students, especially before prom,” Kecskes said. “A lot of people came up to me and said how scary it was to see me laying across the hood of the car. I feel like it was a real eye opener for a lot of students because it could happen to any of us.”
Woodland Principal Arnold Frank was hopeful the students would remember what they saw throughout prom weekend.
“Prom season always makes me nervous,” Frank said. “I hope they take this seriously and understand they have the power to make the right decision. I hope this stays in their minds over the weekend.”
Brennan said the event, which he began planning in January and involved over 30 volunteers, went perfectly according to plan.
“It went just how I pictured it in my head,” Brennan said. “I was very happy with the outcome. I hope it sent a strong message and will help with decisions made in the future. If this saves one person from drinking and driving then I would feel like it was all worth it.”