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Ted Waddell | Democrat

NYSP Trooper Peter Bizjak, one of the first to arrive at the mock scene of the fatal DWI Motor Vehicle Accident (MVA) checks for a pulse of a passenger in the prom car (played by Janette Geoghan), who ‘died’ at the scene.

Prom Night Warning
Has an Effect

By Ted Waddell
ELDRED — May 29, 2007 — When the tarps came off the wrecks, and the bloody bodies of their classmates were revealed, the nervous teenage laughter started to taper off to stunned silence during Thursday’s mock fatal DWI MVA at Eldred Central School, two days before Prom Night 2007.
Not many folks live to tell what it feels like to have a black rubber body bag seal off the light of day as it’s zipped over the face.
But Janette Geoghan, a 17-year old junior, was an exception.
In the multi-agency scenario, she played the part of the deceased victim who was thrown through the windshield of a car driven by a drunk teenage driver on prom night, after the impaired operator crashed head on into an oncoming vehicle.
“It was really scary getting put into the body bag,” she said. “It really creeped me out, it could be real,” she said.
Seventeen-year-old Alexandra Amore, a senior, was one of the 200 9th-12th graders who watched the deadly scenario unfold.
Amore was so overcome by emotion, that as the body bag was closed over her friend, she rushed out from the crowd and placed a yellow carnation in the hands of her classmate.
“It was a respect thing,” said Amore. “Something like this affects a lot of other people, not just the people in the accident - hopefully, it never happens here for real.”
Megan Paterson was so seriously injured that after being stabilized by local emergency medical service personnel, she was “airlifted” to a trauma center by Life Net.
“It was a little scary when I heard them cutting the roof off, with all the glass and stuff,” she said.
A while ago, Paterson was a passenger in a late night non-alcohol related wreck when a vehicle pulled out into the path of their vehicle.
“I couldn’t get back into a car for a while after that,” she recalled.
Eleventh grader Kojo Williams, 18, said the mock DWI MVA was “a good message to all the little kids.”
“It was pretty cool because everyone could see the realness of it,” added Nic Simonelli, a 16-year old junior.
Chris Mehedin, an 11th grader, played the part of an injured passenger.
“It’s a very serious message, and a long laundry list of the consequences of drinking and driving,” said the 17-year driver. “It’s not worth it.”
Kevin Prunka, 17, is a junior at Eldred High. He appeared in the role of the drunk driver.
“I’m the bad guy, who everyone hates; it’s not worth drinking and driving because it can ruin your life,” he said.
NYSP Trooper Eric Patton has been the district’s School Resource Officer (SRO) for four years.
In his first two years with the state’s law enforcement agency, he worked the road.
His first fatal MVA was up in Parksville, in which the deceased was thrown onto the highway and dismembered.
“It’s very traumatic from start to finish,” he said of responding to a fatal wreck “Anything can happen to anyone at anytime… drinking and driving is dangerous, and it’s real.”
His take on the mock DWI MVA?
“It was a touch of reality, so the kids could see what actually transpires in an accident,” replied Trooper Patton.
Last Memorial Day, Mike Walton, a Town of Highland constable, responded to an accident (reportedly alcohol related) involving three local students.
“They were all ejected [from the vehicle], [and] had numerous broken bones and facial injuries,” he said.
The mock DWI MVA was organized by Bob Skibinski (STW/FBLA), Kelly Doherty Health/PE), Trooper Patton and Tim Schadt, a former teacher at Eldred and for the last eight years, chief of the Yulan Volunteer Fire Department.
Over the years, he’s responded to fatal crashes in which students died.
“A student and her friends were coming home from a football game, and the dust was still settling when I arrived at the scene as one of the first responders,” said Schadt.
“I knew all three of them, but the pickup had flipped on top of her, and the other two were thrown out of the truck,” he added.
Frank Kean has been teaching math at Eldred High for 35 years, and in that time has attended 25 funerals of students, and as a pallbearer helped carry ten of them to their final rest.
“It’s the worst feeling in the world,” he said.
“The effects last about three months, then the kids are right back to what they were doing before, and that’s speeding and thinking they’re invincible,” added Kean.

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