North Central News

Car crash cautions of DUI dangers

By Teri Carnicelli
Smoke billowed from the minivan as the driver, her legs wedged and broken under the dashboard, screamed for help. The driver of the other vehicle, coming home from a graduation party and intoxicated, crouched over the broken and bloodied body of her boyfriend, who had been ejected from the small Honda upon impact because he wasn’t wearing a seatbelt. He was dead.

This gruesome scene played out before hundreds of students from Central High School, on their home football field, during a special assembly on May 3. The “Mock DUI Crash” was a collaboration of the City of Phoenix Fire and Police Departments, with help of sponsors from the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety, Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD), St. Luke’s Hospital, and the Maricopa County Medical Examiner’s Office.

  • Central High drama student Diana Hernandez is removed from the wrecked minivan and placed on a backboard so she can be loaded into a waiting ambulance.
    Central High drama student Diana Hernandez is removed from the wrecked minivan and placed on a backboard so she can be loaded into a waiting ambulance (photo by Teri Carnicelli).
  • Central High drama student Diana Hernandez gets support from a Phoenix police officer as she is trapped in a wrecked car during a mock DUI crash demonstration.
    Central High drama student Diana Hernandez gets support from a Phoenix police officer as she is trapped in a wrecked car during a mock DUI crash demonstration (photo by Teri Carnicelli).
  • Phoenix Firebird 10, a rescue helicopter owned and operated cooperatively by the Phoenix Fire and Police departments, prepares to land on the football field at Central High School.
    Phoenix Firebird 10, a rescue helicopter owned and operated cooperatively by the Phoenix Fire and Police departments, prepares to land on the football field at Central High School (photo by Teri Carnicelli).
  • Phoenix Firefighter Curtis Knobbe, acting as an unconscious passenger in the mock DUI demonstration, is removed from the wrecked vehicle by Phoenix fire rescue personnel
    Phoenix Firefighter Curtis Knobbe, acting as an unconscious passenger in the mock DUI demonstration, is removed from the wrecked vehicle by Phoenix fire rescue personnel (photo by Teri Carnicelli).
  • Phoenix Firefighter Curtis Knobbe is taken to the waiting Phoenix Firebird 10 rescue helicopter for transport. A high school student could not be used for this demonstration, so Knobbe volunteered.
    Phoenix Firefighter Curtis Knobbe is taken to the waiting Phoenix Firebird 10 rescue helicopter for transport. A high school student could not be used for this demonstration, so Knobbe volunteered (photo by Teri Carnicelli).
  • Central High drama student Itzel Velasco performs CPR on fellow student Richard Jenkins during a mock DUI crash demonstration.
    Central High drama student Itzel Velasco performs CPR on fellow student Richard Jenkins during a mock DUI crash demonstration (photo by Teri Carnicelli).
  • Central High drama student Itzel Velasco is given a field sobriety test by a Phoenix police officer during a Mock DUI event.
    Central High drama student Itzel Velasco is given a field sobriety test by a Phoenix police officer during a Mock DUI event (photo by Teri Carnicelli).
  • Central High drama student Richard Jenkins, who was ejected through the windshield and died at the scene of the mock DUI demonstration, is loaded into a body bag by Phoenix firefighters and members of the Maricopa County coroner’s office.
    Central High drama student Richard Jenkins, who was ejected through the windshield and died at the scene of the mock DUI demonstration, is loaded into a body bag by Phoenix firefighters and members of the Maricopa County coroner’s office (photo by Teri Carnicelli).

The smashed cars were provided by Western Towing, and the car crash victims were ably played by students from Central High School’s Drama Club, including Itzel Valacsco as the drunk driver who ran a red light; Richard Jenkins, her boyfriend killed in the crash; and Diana Hernandez, the driver of the minivan who suffered multiple leg and pelvic fractures and had to be extricated wit the “jaws of life.”

“So many people are impacted by one person’s choice to drink and drive.”
— Kelly Liebermann
The passenger of the SUV, who was bloodied and unconscious with head and face injuries because he was only wearing his lap belt, was portrayed by Phoenix Firefighter Curtis Knobbe, because he later was airlifted from the scene by Phoenix Firebird 10—something the public safety officials who organized the event wouldn’t have done with a student actor. So Knobbe stepped in to play the role.

This highly dramatic portrayal of the consequences of driving while drunk—including the “dead” passenger being put into a body bag—was played out in an effort to drive home the message that it’s not only illegal for students to be drinking at all, but to do so and then get behind the wheel just isn’t worth the potential consequences.

“So many people are impacted by one person’s choice to drink and drive,” explained Phoenix Firefighter Kelly Liebermann, who emceed the event. “If we can prevent fatalities and prevent injuries to innocent people, then we are doing our job.”

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