Simulated DWI crash sends powerful message to Lyndonville students

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 23 May 2013 at 12:00 am

Photos by Tom Rivers

Local firefighters, Mercy Flight of Western New York and the Lyndonville school district today simulated a drunken driving car crash outside the high school. Students wore makeup to appear bloodied. Firefighters removed pieces of the cars to remove the “injured” students, who were taken from the scene by stretcher.

LYNDONVILLE – A little after 9 this morning, the ambulances and fire trucks started arriving. When they saw the damage in the two-car crash outside Lyndonville’s school on Housel Avenue, Mercy Flight was called.

The crash was a simulation, a reminder of the deadly dangers of drunk driving with prom season and graduation parties just around the corner.

“This is one of the best ways to show them,” said Jason Smith, Lyndonville Central School superintendent. ““It makes an impact. The first time I saw it as a teacher at Albion, it made an impression on me.”

He has invited firefighters for the simulation the past two years as school superintendent. He also welcomed firefighters and Mercy Flight to stage a drunk driving crash when he was a principal at Elba.

Lyndonville students wore makeup so their faces and shirts appeared bloodied. Firefighters tore apart the vehicles to get access to the students, who were then removed by stretcher and taken away in either an ambulance or Mercy Flight.

One student, Alyssa Houseman, pretended to be dead from the crash. Firefighters put a blanket over here to signify her death. Alyssa’s mother, Bobbi, ran in front of about 150 students and shrieked in distress over her daughter.

Alyssa and several of her softball teammates were in one of the crashed vehicles. They wore their uniforms in the simulation.

“You could feel the tension and emotions,” Alyssa said. “If it will save someone, it’s worth it.”

Bobbi Houseman reacts after being told her daughter, Alyssa, “died” as part of DWI mock simulation earlier today to warn Lyndonville students about the dangers of drunk driving. Ken Strickland, a deputy with the Orleans County Sheriff’s Department, tries to comfort Houseman.

Bobbi Houseman was reluctant to participate in the simulation. She didn’t like the thought of pretending her daughter had been killed.

“It was creepy,” she said. “It’s the last thing you want to think of, that you’ve lost a child. It was very difficult to come up and see your child and know there is nothing you can do.”

Walter Batt, an Orleans County fire investigator, talked to students about what was happening while firefighters arrived and worked to free students from the wreck. Batt told students that even one drink of alcohol can impair their ability to drive and lead to a fatal accident.

Ken Strickland, an Orleans County deputy sheriff, also addressed the students. Strickland said he has gone to the homes of families to break the news that a child had died in car accidents.

“We’re telling you this happens all the time,” Strickland said about the consequences of drunk driving. “You’re not super human.”

Several local fire departments volunteered for the simulation. Mercy Flight sent a helicopter from Batavia. That agency is participating in about 20 simulations at schools in Western New York this spring, said Bill Schutt, the agency’s outreach coordinator.

“We serve this community and if we can do something to prevent them from needing our services, then that’s the right thing to do,” Schutt said.

Mercy Flight of Western New York and several local fire departments responded to the simulated crash at Lyndonville today.