Amity High School’s SADD (Students Against Destructive Decisions) club staged a mock fatal car crash with students acting out the parts of victims of a drunk driving crash. It was a powerful visual reminder of what can happen when poor decisions are made, especially in the spring and summer months with prom, graduation and other celebrations occurring. The over encompassing theme of the event was to be safe and keep others safe.
Narrated by Retired Deputy Chief of Orange Police Anthony Cuozzo, the mock crash showed first-hand the consequences of distracted driving to Amity’s juniors and seniors. Held in the handicapped parking area by the athletic fields, two cars that had been damaged in real-life serious accidents were positioned so that they appeared to have hit head-on and student actors played out the scene.
“These two cars must have been involved in a high-speed collision on Amity Road. A witness to the crash called 911 and emergency personnel have been dispatched to the scene,” Cuozzo told the crowd.
Police from Orange and Woodbridge appeared, lights and sirens blaring. An ambulance followed.
“The driver of the grey car, Ryan, is a 17-year-old male. He and his passenger Lucia had been drinking at a private home in Orange and were on their way home. Due to his impairment, he ran a red light and impacted another vehicle at the intersection,” Cuozzo said.
Ryan was the only one in the car wearing a seat belt and although he was conscious, he was screaming ‘wake up!’ at his friend who wasn’t responding.
“Upon impact, Lucia’s body was thrown forward through the front windshield because she was not wearing her seat belt. She hasn’t answered to her friend’s screams and it appears that she may be dead,” Cuozzo said.
Lucia Belbusti, a senior, laid perfectly still on the ground on the cold windy morning with a pool of blood formed around her head. The vision was so realistic that it brought gasps and even tears from students who were extremely respectful and focused during the event. Around Lucia’s lifeless body, emergency crews focused on the victims in the other car.
The driver of the other car, a 17-year-old female, was conscious at first and appeared dizzy and confused. She was the only person in the car wearing a seatbelt.
“Unfortunately, the unrestrained front seat passenger was thrown with such force that she is pinned under the dashboard with severely crushed legs and head trauma,” Cuozzo said as the ambulance pulled up, followed by Woodbridge Fire Department.
“I need back up quick,” said the police officer who was surveying the scene. “This is a severe crash involving multiple victims. The injuries are severe, please send EMS as soon as possible, this may be a fatal of one or more victims.”
The fire department worked on freeing the girls in the other car, using the Jaws of Life to remove each door, and peel the shattered windshield off of the car. In the meantime, Ryan undergoes a field sobriety test and is arrested for DWI.
Cuozzo spoke about the consequences of distracted and impaired driving from his experience as an Orange Police Officer. “I’ve been the one in the middle of the night to ring the doorbell and tell parents that their child had been in a terrible accident,” he said.
Following the crash, the students gathered in the theater to hear a presentation by Ray Raw, who lost his only daughter to a drunk driving crash. Meri-Lyn was 18 years old and had been drinking at a club in New Haven on February 26, 2006. She dropped her boyfriend off and hit a tree on her way home. “She died on impact. I can’t say what happened. She was raised in a home with love. I had no idea she was drinking,” Ray said. “Everything changed in my world and nothing is ever going to bring her back.”
Due to graduate from St. Joe’s High School in the spring, an empty chair sat with white roses where she should have sat. “It all ended in one brief moment. It was all over,” Ray said. He graduated from Amity in 1972 and has one clear message for the students, “Please be careful.”
Gary Lindgren, a counselor at the high school who oversees the SADD Club reiterated Ray’s thoughts. “Always think about how precious life is. We think life is invincible, but in one instant it can be over. That’s how fragile it is,” he said.
In his closing statement, Cuozzo spoke not only as a police officer, but as a parent. “I lost my best friend in 1988 and I still remember that call. Don’t be self-centered. Think about the impact your death would have on the people who love you. Avoid risky behavior. You have your whole lives ahead of you. Go forth, lead wonderful lives and be successful,” he said.
By Melissa Nicefaro – Orange Town News Correspondent