‘CRASH’ SENDS MESSAGE IN GORY DETAIL

rbr-mock2Local volunteers ready a mock patient to be removed from a staged car crash and transported via a helicopter. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

With red lights flashing, power tools humming, glass shattered into crystal rocks on the pavement and twisted metal — what just minutes prior had been car roofs and doors —  tossed to the side, the jaws slowly lowered and the cell phones were pointed in ‘capture’ mode.

After firefighters muscled the jaws of life to tear aluminum and carbon fiber from two cars that had become cages to its passengers, EMS volunteers broke out the neck braces and popped the stretchers into position, ready to take away the victims of a head-on collision Friday morning.

Then the hearse arrived, and somebody was being zipped into a white body bag.

This high school tradition, a morbid mise en scene intended to spring the neck hair of prom-going seniors, couldn’t get more real short of somebody’s heart actually stopping.

rbr-mock1A RBR teacher playing DOA gets zipped into a body bag. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

Now in its sixth year, Red Bank Regional High School’s mock crash, in which local emergency workers recreate a drunken driving crash in graphic detail, is one of the school’s preventative measures during prom season in hopes of scaring students straight from drinking and driving.

All of next week will include events, speeches and presentations to the school’s seniors on the dangers of driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

The mock crash is a tactic schools all over have taken for years to try, by putting the fear of death in students, to reduce student accidents and fatalities. But RBR prefers to take it one step further.

With the help of John E. Day Funeral Home in Red Bank, a teacher who plays a deceased victim of the crash is loaded into a body bag and taken into a hearse. Another teacher who survives the crash is braced in a stretcher and then taken away in a State Police helicopter.

“This is a big deterrent,” Little Silver police officer and the school’s resource officer Peter Gibson said. “I really feel seeing is believing. I think impact plays a big role in what we’re doing.”

The absence of any post-prom and post-graduation accidents involving students the last six years can be attributed to those efforts, Gibson said.

Students, who formed a circle around the crash and jockeyed for the best position to grab pictures and video of the crash on the cell phones, had more than an image on a LCD screen from the event.

“It’s scary and eye-opening,” said Laura Stasi, who’s going to the prom next week. “The fact that they make it so realistic and serious is important.”

It was comforting to know, though, how well-trained the volunteers, from Little Silver and Shrewsbury’s departments, were in such a grisly scenario, senior Olivia Porada said.

But that doesn’t make her any more inclined to consider drinking and driving, she said.

“It makes you feel comfortable,” she said, “but you don’t want to be in that situation.”