Cars were smashed, windshields were bloodied, and a lifeless body came to rest on the hood of a car during a mock DWI scenario that played out in the John C. Birdlebough High School parking recently.
The biannual event, for juniors and seniors, aims to promote smart decision-making on the road, as passengers and as drivers.
“These people made a bad decision to get in the car with someone who had been drinking,” said Stop DWI instructor Cathy McPherson as she surveyed the mock accident scene. “You may be faced with the same decision. I hope you see all the people who are affected by this accident and think about that when you consider getting into a car with someone who has been drinking.”
Although it was a staged scene, the reactions and responses were very real for the students involved. Finella Campanino portrayed the deceased victim as she lay on the windshield covered in blood and missing a limb. She was a front-seat passenger in a blue Cadillac Seville driven by her best friend, Maria Musumeci.
The Cadillac was struck head on by a Silver Chevrolet Malibu operated by Alexis Bowering, who was under the influence of alcohol when she lost control of her vehicle.
When emergency crews arrived on scene, Bowering was handcuffed and later arraigned on a class E felony charge of criminally negligent homicide, multiple driving while intoxicated charges and traffic infractions.
In addition to the legal repercussions, the severity of the consequences of driving drunk hit home for students in the audience when they realized the impact the accident has on the family and friends of the victim. Campanino’s mother was on-hand to portray the grieving mother.
“When you hear the blood-curdling scream of a parent who just lost a child, you’ll never, ever forget it,” said a sheriff’s investigator during the program.
Bob Lighthall, the program coordinator for Oswego County Stop DWI, urged students to have an alternative way to get home after a night of drinking. “You need a backup plan,” he said. “Know how you’re going to get home safe, start that plan now.”
As the students absorbed the message, they heard Musumeci give a eulogy for her best friend, they listened as a drunken driver crash survivor told her story, and they heard Campanino’s reflection on her life – a life cut too short due to a drunken driver.
That message hopefully will resonate with students, Lighthall said.
The event was sponsored by the Oswego County Stop DWI program in conjunction with the school district, several local emergency service departments, the county district attorney, Menter Ambulance, Foster Funeral Home, Matt McGill Collision and the county 911 center.