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Ohio teens, responders act in mock DUI car crash

"It's hard to see something like that. I think it hit everybody," father Pat Spettel said about seeing his daughter pretend to be a DUI victim

By Cary Ashby
Norwalk Reflector

NORWALK, Ohio — Claire Spettel simply told her father to come to the fenced-in parking lot near the St. Paul Convocation Center at 11 a.m. Thursday.

What Pat Spettel saw was his daughter lying outside a black sport utility vehicle that had been in a head-on collision. The St. Paul High School senior had makeup blood on her bare legs. She was playing one of two "fatalities" in the mock crash, the senior project of Jackie Cervantes and Tess Lepley.

"It's hard to see something like that. I think it hit everybody," Spettel said, referring to his daughter portraying a victim. "I think it's important to put this in perspective for these kids that they are responsible for their actions."

Claire Spettel portrayed a victim who wasn't wearing her seat belt and was thrown through the side window of the SUV that hit a small, four-door car. The other "fatality" was played by junior Sam Meyer. He rested his "bloody" head on the steering wheel of the car.

Cervantes said she heard from many students that the mock crash was realistic.

Arriving before the first-responders was a car that contained seniors Nick Lukasko, Kurt Maxwell and Kaden Rossman. The teenagers ran to the crash site, with Rossman, Spettel's boyfriend, yelling "Oh my God, Claire."

In the car "driven" by Meyer were seniors Meredith Dilger and Hannah Rudolph. In the other vehicle were seniors Thane Crabbs, Spettel, Hunter Sweet and Rachel Bleile and eight-grader Karlie Rudolph.

The state Highway Patrol, Norwalk police and fire departments, Huron County Sheriff's Office and North Central EMS responded to the crash site. Firefighters used the Jaws of Life to remove a door from the SUV to extricate one of the "victims."

A trooper administered a sobriety test to Crabbs, who "was charged with" driving under the influence. Although Crabbs had rehearsed the mock crash before the other students witnessed it, he said it was a scary situation when authorities and firefighters arrived.

"Just be smart," he said, referring to one of the lessons he learned. "You don't have to do anything like this that would lead to this (tragedy)."

Lukasko carried Dilger, his actual girlfriend, out of the car, where paramedics and police officers cared for her.

"It was definitely eye-opening. It was realistic," Lukasko said afterward. "It makes you think."

When asked to elaborate, the senior said it makes him more cautious while driving and look out for what other motorists are doing.

Caution was a theme in the assembly for the high school and middle school students after the mock crash. Trooper Evan Stevens, of the patrol, reminded them they are prohibited from texting at a stop sign or a stop light. He recommended the students pull to the side of the road if they need to text or use a directions app.

Stevens also said troopers often clock teen drivers going 15 to 30 mph over the speed limit. The trooper shared a cautionary tale of a young driver who was indicted on several serious charges after some people died in a collision.

"I've lost quite a few friends in car crashes," said Evans, a 2003 New London High School graduate.

Principal Jim Tokarsky, during the assembly, recalled a tragic incident in the 1990s when three Ravenna High School students skipped class and two of them were killed in a crash that same day. Tokarsky taught math at Ravenna at the time and the driver was one of his students.

"She survived, but she was never the same," he said.

Before the crash, the student was "happy and carefree," but afterward she could never get over being the cause of the death of her two friends, Tokarsky added.

"Put your seat belt on. Don't drive in the back of a truck," he told the St. Paul students. "Be careful. Do the best you can."

Cervantes and Lepley knew they wanted to coordinate a mock crash right after they watched the last one that St. Paul hosted during the 2015-2016 school year.

"It impacted us both," said Cervantes, the daughter of Everardo and Candace.

"I know when I saw it, I was like 'Wow,'" added Lepley, the daughter of Jim and Elita.

"Making people aware that it happens in real life is a really big thing. I love everybody at this school and I wouldn't want to see anyone hurt. Or the toll on their families," she said.

Copyright 2017 Norwalk Reflector


Senior project of Tess Lepley and Jackie Cervantes

Posted by St. Paul High School-Norwalk Catholic School on Thursday, September 21, 2017
McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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