The car crash wasn’t real at Spoto High School, neither was the drunk driver nor the blood that covered the student victims, but it was a harsh lesson about the very real consequences of drinking and driving.
Spoto High teamed up with the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, Hillsborough Fire Rescue and Tampa General Hospital for the mock DUI crash.
Juniors and seniors who packed the stadium heard the screeching tires of a simulated crash. Then, rescue crews pulled off tarps from two wrecked cars, revealing the aftermath of the staged DUI wreck. Students portrayed the “victims” and the “drunk driver.”
Audio from a recorded mock 911 call set the scene. “911, what’s your emergency?” The “caller” replied, “I’d like to report a bad accident. My friends, they were hurt real bad. The driver of the other vehicle is drunk or on drugs or something. Please hurry!”
HCSO Deputy and Spoto School Resource Officer Catherine Brown raced onto the field in her squad car with the lights on and siren blaring.
“I want this to be something that they remember all the time: what takes place anytime that somebody is behind the wheel and they’re intoxicated, they’re impaired in some way, whether it be drugs, whether it be alcohol,” said Deputy Brown. “I want them to take this scenario and say, you know what, that’s not what I want for my family. I wouldn’t want my family or my friends to experience this type of tragedy.”
Hillsborough County Fire Rescue rushed to the “crash” to help the victims. They had to cut the roof off the car to free the trapped driver.
“I was the passenger, and we were T-boned, and I was ejected out of the front window,” said Senior Miyah Cook, who played the part of a victim who died.
Senior Nico Areizaga portrayed the drunk driver. “The girl who I hit, because I was the drunk driver, she chose not to drink and still suffered the consequence,” said Areizaga. In the scenario, the student who was the driver of the other car had to be airlifted to the hospital with serious injuries.
“It can be you. People think, oh that can’t happen to me, or I’ve done it before, or I know families that have done it before. But, it only takes one time,” said Cook.
Deputies walked the “drunk driver” through sobriety tests, then “arrested” him.
“I hope that this was impactful for them, and that they do take consideration when they are out, and they are partying with friends, and they’re having a great time. It’s not wise to get into a car with someone who is impaired that is intoxicated, and they’re wise enough to say, you know what, maybe you shouldn’t drive either. Make the right decision, so that other people aren’t effected by the decisions,” said Deputy Brown.
Rescue crews say it’s tough to arrive at a scene and see young lives senselessly impacted. “It’s never easy. Being a father myself of a 22-year-old and 16-year-old daughter, it can be really emotional when it comes to the kids. When we get on the scene, our goal is basically focus on exactly what we need to do, perform it, get them out, save as much as we can,” said Hillsborough County Fire Rescue Captain Anthony Hooper.
There was an emotional moment in the presentation when classmates listened to a recording of the “dying student” talk to her mom: “I went to a party, Mom, and I remembered what you said. You told me not to drink, Mom, so I drank soda instead… I started to drive away, Mom, and I pulled out into the road, the other car didn’t see me, Mom, and hit me like a load. As I lay here on the pavement, Mom, I hear the policeman say the other guy was drunk, Mom, and now I’m the one who will pay… Someone should have told him, Mom, not to drink and drive, if only they would have told him, Mom, I’d still be alive… I didn’t drink and drive, Mom, so why am I the one to die?”
A hearse from Blount and Curry pulled up to take Cook away from the crash scene. “Being loaded up in a hearse, it was like, oh my God, this actually happened to somebody, and it wasn’t their fault, because they were doing what they were supposed to do, it’s really sad,” Cook said.
The students believe it’s a powerful message right before Winter Break and the holidays.
“Let’s push everyone to make better choices and make better decisions,” said Areizaga.
“New Years, people do like to drink and go out and have fun and not be responsible. I feel like I’ve helped spread a message that needs to be spread,” Cook said.
Deputies warned students that getting arrested for drunk driving is costly in many ways with a 6-month minimum driver’s license suspension, jail time, impounding of the car, and attorney fees and fines totaling around $10,000. If a victim is injured or killed in the crash, the drunk driver faces even more serious charges.View Full Album