Learn: Phony tragedy scary

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Union News

Watching an imitation of a drunken-driving accident was a bit frightening for some college and high school students.

By Sandra E. Constantine
Staff Writer

SOUTH HADLEY - The details of a simulated drunken driving accident yesterday at Mount Holyoke College, which included a hearse, body bags and police investigators, were so real some college students thought it was the real thing.

Katharine E. Reisbig, 20 a sophomore from Daytona Beach, Fla., said the mock accident was so realistic several students asked her about it, because they thought it had really happened.

Reisbig, who helped apply the theatrical blood to the students from the college and South Hadley High School, who acted out the crash, said the students were "goofing around" with the makeup, but actually seeing the enactment was a sobering experience. About 100 people watched the event.

"This could really happen to people you know," Reisbig said.

The 45-minute drama started at 12:15 p.m. and included the participation of campus police; South Hadley police, firefighters and ambulance personnel; Ryder Funeral Home and campus emergency medical technicians.

Stephanie Clarke Mayberg, chairwoman of the committee that had planned the event since last September, said the mock accident was part of the college's Drinking and Driving Awareness Day to raise awareness about the dangers of drunken driving. The college's Medical Emergency Response Team and the college's Alcohol and Drug Advisory Committee put on the program titled "Every Fifteen Minutes" with students from South Hadley High School and the college.

The crash was enacted using a 1979 Cutlass Supreme Oldsmobile loaned by Pleasant Street Auto in Granby. The car was parked in front of a light pole in front of Skinner Hall. Its entire front end was smashed in, and firefighters sprayed foam over the engine to lessen the chance of a fire.

Mount Holyoke College students Gwen J. Bass, 21, a senior form Amherst, and Erin Dowd, 21, a senior from Lewiston, N.Y., played the pedestrian and driver, respectively, in the simulation.

The "driver" walked away from the crash, while the "pedestrian" died at the scene.

In addition, a passenger portrayed by Brad J. Charette, 15, a sophomore at South Hadley High School, played the role of a "dead" person at the scene. South Hadley High School juniors Amanda Rodriguez, 16, and Nicholas J. D'Alessandro, 16, acted the parts of "injured" passengers in the car.

Carol J. Sebastian, peer leader advisor at the high school, who helped with the program, said it was filmed to be shown to students going to the May 17 prom to discourage drunken driving. She said she also plans to use the film in her classroom. Sandra E. Constantine can be reached at sconstantine@union-news.com

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