ELIZABETH — Andrew Estevez designed his senior project to stop his Elizabeth High School classmates in their tracks.
To get them to see that the decision to drink and drive can be a deadly one, he asked for the help of his mother, Maria. As a Victim’s Witness Advocate, she speaks often about the deadly results of drinking and driving for the Union County Prosecutor’s office.
Maria asked for help from the Elizabeth police, the Emergency Medical Service ambulance corps of the Elizabeth Fire Department, paramedics of Trinitas Regional Medical Center’s Mobile Intensive Care Unit, the State Police Medevac Unit, and the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey NorthSTAR Air Medical Program.
As a result, these groups staged a motor vehicle accident on May 22 in the school parking lot on Pulaski Street. The firemen and emergency medical technicians placed two cars that had crashed in previous accidents together. Inside the cars were classmates Andrew had chosen to act out four roles: a drunk driver, an on-scene fatality, and two critically injured people who needed to be transported, one dying en route to the hospital and the other a quadriplegic.
“We’ve absolutely seen it happen in real life,” said Terry Hoben, EMS Coordinator for the NorthSTAR Air Medical Program. “We’ve learned that you have to get into the kids’ heads. They’re young and have no life experience.”
Firemen pried students out of the cars with the Jaws of Life, while paramedics demonstrated the insertion of tracheal tube and performed CPR because one passenger experienced “cardiac arrest.”
“When the students came outside and saw the accident, their eyes lit up,” said Kenneth Reardon, Coordinator of the Trinitas Mobile Intensive Care Unit. “But, when they saw their friends inside, there were only one or two kids laughing or yelling; the rest were silent. This hits home, this can happen to people you know. It’s real.”
The “fatality” was laid in a body bag while paramedics worked on the “injured” passengers and police arrested the “drunk driver.” After the 25-minute drill, the students went to the high school auditorium to hear members of the Union County Prosecutor’s office and DWI victims speak.
“We don’t want to see our kids involved in accidents like this,” Hoben said. “We don’t want to see kids’ lives ruined by drunk driving. If we can affect one person, it will be great.”
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