Drama student Tyler Curry portrays a badly injured student who was ejected from a vehicle and died on the scene. (Staff Photos: Crystal Tatum)
COVINGTON — It’s one thing to read in the newspaper about an accident that occurred because someone was texting. It’s another to watch one classmate lie bleeding on the pavement and another being zipped into a body bag.
Students at Alcovy High School got a graphic lesson on the dangers of texting while driving during a reality wreck hosted by the Newton County Sheriff’s Office Thursday morning.
Seven members of the school’s drama club gave disturbingly realistic performances as the students involved in a two-car crash. Spectators were told that a student was texting while driving and crossed over the center line, causing a head-on collision with another vehicle. The live action started with the immediate aftermath of the wreck, with a female passenger calling 911 and telling the dispatcher through sobs that her friend, who was ejected from the vehicle, was not breathing. Emergency personnel arrived on the scene, sawing the roof off a mangled vehicle to get to the injured. Students watched as their classmates were put on stretchers and into an ambulance. One was placed in a body bag and carried off by the coroner.
An Air Methods helicopter landed to evacuate another victim. Students were told he went into cardiac arrest and died on the scene before he could be evacuated. Two students were killed in the scenario and four injured and transported for treatment. The student who caused the accident was treated for minor injuries, handcuffed and hauled away in a police car. He was charged with two counts of vehicular homicide, failure to maintain lane and texting while driving.
It was all an effort to drive home to teenagers the danger of texting while driving, said NCSO Public Information Officer Felicia Jefferson. Some students were visibly upset, while others heckled the drama students who portrayed the injured.
“We can look in the crowd and we can tell who we got to. There are others who just don’t care,” Deputy Jack Redlinger said after the last of the victims had been taken away. “Guess what, it’s going to be a friend of yours one day.”
He warned students if they get caught texting while driving, they will lose their license. Redlinger and Deputy Patrick Gilbert, both members of the NCSO Traffic Unit, orchestrated the reality wreck.
Gilbert said texting at a red light or stop sign is still on the roadway and is against the law. There have been 13 fatal accidents in Newton County this year, he said. “It doesn’t get any easier seeing kids,” injured or killed in accidents, he said.
Coroner Tommy Davis said the most difficult part of his job is notifying parents their child has been killed.
“Any message you have can wait … If this happens, you’re not going to get to deliver that message to anyone. I’ll be delivering a message to your parents,” he said.
Alcovy Principal Sandra Owens said often students don’t realize the tragic consequences of texting while on the road. Seeing their classmates in the reality wreck makes it more personal and emotional, she said.
“If we can just save one person, it’s worth it,” she said.
Juniors and seniors at Alcovy viewed the reality wreck in person. A video will be shown to all high school students in the school system.
Owens said the event also shows emergency personnel in a positive light and she hopes it will encourage some students to pursue careers in those fields.
In addition to the NCSO, agencies participating in the reality wreck were Newton County Fire Service, Newton County EMS, Newton County EMA and Air Methods medical transport. K2 Towing in Covington provided the two vehicles, which had been damaged in real wrecks.
Drama students participating were Jonathan Hall, Alex Daniel, Baylee Gunnells, Tyler Geirrein, Iteonna Bailey, Jessica Bolton and Tyler Curry.