Mock disaster highlights perils of drinking, driving

Editor’s Note: The Inter-Mountain normally would not publish graphic photos from an accident scene. However, in the case of the mock drill at Philip Barbour High School, no one was injured. Therefore, the value of showing young people the potentially fatal consequences of drinking and driving led to our decision to publish these images.

Fire trucks, ambulances and even a helicopter were on the scene at the football field at Philip Barbour High School Thursday morning. Not to worry, it was not an accident. In fact, it was just the opposite. All of this was part of a carefully organized plan. With the help of many volunteers, the mock disaster drill raised awareness about the importance of not drinking and driving.

With the PBHS prom set for Saturday, students were able to see the possible result of making the bad decision to drink and drive. Members of the junior and senior classes came to the field to watch the scene play out.

With the help of student council members Brianna Waybright, Trey Furby, Rachel Stuart, Raychel Fitzwater, Morgan Stemler, Karlie Smallwood, Brooke Depoy and Nikki Shriver, those in attendance were able to watch as actors were “arrested” for drunk driving, others were taken by ambulance or Healthnet to the hospital, and one person was even carried off in a body bag.

Lt. Matt Ryan of the Belington Volunteer Fire Department was instrumental in getting everyone on board to help with this training.

“As a bus driver, this time of year I find myself stressing to students the risk of DUI,” Ryan said.

“I have been teaching fire prevention to elementary students, but realized that all age groups need to be involved in safety measures. So, we got together with (PBHS Assistant Principal) Mrs. (Autumn) Queen and started planning three months ago,” Ryan said. “With the help of different organizations, we were able to pull everything together and hopefully make a difference.

“This event was one more way for all county agencies to work together as one team and practice our skills if something like this were to really happen.”

Organizations taking part in Thursday’s event included the Belington, Junior, and Philippi volunteer fire departments, the Barbour County Sheriff’s Office, the Philippi City Police Department, the Barbour County EMS, Belington EMS, Healthnet 6 and Thorne’s Towing.

Nancy Pope of Healthnet 6 said, “I just hope it makes an impact. If it saves just one life, then it’s worth it all.”

Morgan Stemler, one of the students who helped with the demonstration, said, “It was a surreal experience and one that I definitely don’t want to happen in real life.”

Thursday’s events also touched the librarian, Julie Scott. She played the role of the deceased student’s mother. Her character was led off in handcuffs after assaulting a fireman while in shock from learning that her daughter had died.

“I just want the kids to understand how important it is to realize that it’s not just about them,” Stemler said. “There are other people involved, not only the victims, but people at home who love you. Your life touches someone in some way. The whole community is affected.”

Sheriff John Hawkins said, “The program here today was put on to try and define drunk driving. Hopefully, we can encourage kids to have a safe prom weekend with only good memories.

“My goal on Monday morning when I go to work is that I don’t have to do a press release because of a traffic fatality involving a student because of drinking,” Hawkins said. “We appreciate all cooperation in making this possible.”

Hawkins wanted all the students to know if they do find themselves in a situation where they shouldn’t be driving, all they have to do is call 457-5167 and a city police officer or deputy will give them a safe ride home, no questions asked.