Before prom, mock crash shows Glenbard North students 'ripple effect' of drunken driving
A teenage driver in a peach prom dress stood by as her friend lay motionless on the ground following a head-on, two-vehicle crash.
Minutes later, the teen would fail a sobriety test and be led away from Glenbard North High School in handcuffs, teetering on her high heels.
Turns out she was only acting, but Jessica Gallagher felt the full shame of portraying a senior who got behind the wheel of a white SUV, on prom night, drunk.
"It felt so real in the moment," she said Wednesday morning. "It was very overwhelming."
Carol Stream police and firefighters who staged the mock DUI crash as a cautionary tale before Glenbard North's actual prom this Saturday treated the emergency call just as they always do. And they overlooked none of the grim details of such a scene in the real world.
Fire trucks No. 27 and 28 rushed to the school, sirens blaring. Firefighters stretched a hose. There were no flames, but the SUV was flipped on its side. A fuel line could be broken and ignite at any moment.
"There's a lot of unknown hazards right now," Carol Stream Deputy Fire Chief Bob Hoff told a transfixed crowd of students on bleachers.
Two victims would be pulled from the wreckage and covered in white sheets. They were the teenage passengers who had not been drinking.
"If this actually happened, we don't know what we would do with ourselves afterward," said Alec Deske, who acted as the trapped driver in a minivan. "How would you live with yourself?"
For the past eight years, authorities have partnered with the school to simulate the crash and show teens the "ripple effect" of drunken driving, Hoff said.
"It takes an emotional toll on everyone, especially when they're young people and you know that the accident didn't have to happen the way it did because someone was impaired," Hoff said.
The totaled vehicles -- and one parked by Glenbard North's electronic sign -- had been donated by Deluxe and Golf & Busse towing companies. Pamela Barnett, director of victim services at the Alliance Against Intoxicated Motorists, also recounted the story of a teen left paralyzed by a drunken driver.
But the sight of the crash "hit a little too close to home for me," said Brianna Consalvo, who wore a green gown and fake blood as one of the victims.
"I'm never drinking," she vowed.
By 8:52 a.m., the other victim was "pronounced dead" by Charlie Dastych, DuPage County chief deputy coroner. Then he painted his own scene: notifying the parents that their child "will never be coming home again."
"Your parents have to go to a funeral home and make arrangements because you made a bad decision," he told students.
Dastych hoped that image stuck a chord with teens, far beyond prom night.
"This is not just about prom. This is about life in general," he said. "It could be any time you're out with your friends."