By Ted Waddell
MONTICELLO May 31, 2002 It was a morning to remember Tyrone Jackson.
It was also a day to reflect that drinking and driving dont mix.
On Wednesday, Monticello High School juniors and seniors assembled on a small hillside to watch local firefighters and EMS personnel stage a mock auto extrication that simulated the effects of a fatal teenage drunk driving accident.
For many in the crowd, it struck close to home, as Jackson, a 17-year-old student at Liberty High School, was killed on May 9 in a motor vehicle accident reportedly involving alcohol. The popular student was a passenger in the car.
Before transferring to the neighboring district during his freshman year, Jackson attended classes with many of the Monti students watching the realistic drill.
The sobering event was staged by the Monticello Fire Department, the Monticello Police Department, MobileMedic and a local funeral parlor.
The message: get kids to realize that drinking and driving dont mix, and teenagers arent really immortal.
Brian Soller, chief of the Monticello Fire Department, and 1st Assistant Chief Mike Bastone served as co-presenters.
Three years ago, Crystal Price was a senior at Monti High and a junior member of the fire department. She came up with the idea of staging a mock drunk driving accident as a way of raising awareness of the tragic effects of drinking and driving.
In the simulation, a drunk teenage driver (17-year-old senior George Speer) crashed head-on into a car filled with three Monti teens. Speers front seat passenger (18-year-old 12th grader Danielle Cassidy) was seriously injured.
Two seniors in the death car were killed on impact: the driver, 18-year-old Summer Bilick and front seat passenger Lindsay Kesten, 17.
Fighting back tears through blood streaked hair, Bilick said, It means a lot because we all had a friend who died in a drunk driving accident.
Rear seat passenger Billy Steinberg, an 18-year-old 12th grader, sustained massive head injuries on impact.
Steinberg has served as a volunteer with the Forestburgh Fire Department for 2 1/2 years. As a member of their auto extrication team, hes worked a few DWI accidents.
Ive seen people die, said Steinberg. We just lost a close friend who went to school here to drunk driving. . . . I want to show my friends what can really happen in a drunk driving accident.
As the scenario unfolded, firefighters literally ripped both cars apart to allow EMS personnel access to the entrapped victims. The dead teens were covered with a plastic tarp and not removed until the critically injured victims were stabilized and extricated in a lengthy process that was all too real for some onlookers.
A sticker Get In, Sit Down, Shut Up & Hold On was pasted on the dash of the the drunk drivers car. The front seat was filled with blood, and a handful of copper pennies were scattered in the rear footwell.
Shattered glass, dismantled doors and pools of blood told the story of what a few-too-many beers behind the wheel can do to young adults who mix booze and cars.
Moments before the dead were placed in body bags, the drunk driver was given a field sobriety test by Monticello Police Officer Gerry Dietz. The driver failed miserably and was arrested and charged with DWI and several felonies.
Its a good way to pass along a message to other students that drinking and driving is definitely not a good thing, said Speer, wiping blood from his face.
Alan Kesten is a past chief with the local fire department with 29 years of service. His daughter played the role of a fatality.
This is very close to home for me, said the veteran firefighter. Shes a senior, and Friday night is prom night. If we can keep one can of beer out of the hands of a kid behind the wheel because they saw this, its all worthwhile.
Tyrone went to kindergarten with my daughter here at Monticello before his family moved to Liberty, he added. Whats touching home to these kids is the death of their friend two weeks ago.
On the hillside above the accident scene, a couple of juniors stood side by side watching the extrication.
Shannon Price rested her head on Jeremy Lilleys shoulder as emergency services apparatus arrived, red lights flashing and sirens screaming in the rising morning mist.
Its a good lesson to show everyone what drunk driving can do to you, said Lilley.
Tricia Kaiser, a 16-year-old 11th grader, went to class with Tyrone Jackson all through the elementary and middle school years at Monticello.
As Kaiser watched the accident scene with the tail of her sweatshirt in her teeth, she envisioned the scene of May 9 as rescuers labored to free her friend from the wreck in Liberty.
I saw what it looked like when Tyrone came out of the car, said Kaiser emotionally. We were great friends.