The girl lay sprawled on the ground, her pretty white dress covered with blood and one shoe missing. Nearby her boyfriend frantically called 9-1-1. The operator instructed him how to give the girl CPR until help arrived … but it was already too late for her.
Nearby, piercing screams came from a girl trapped behind the wheel of her vehicle, as her boyfriend fell in and out of consciousness next to her, his face unrecognizable and covered in blood.
This gruesome scene played out before hundreds of students from Washington High School, on their football field, during a special assembly on Jan. 17. The “Mock DUI Crash” between two passenger vehicles 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.
The smashed cars were provided by Western Towing, and the car crash victims were ably played by students from Washington High’s Drama Club, including: Sam Strate as the drunk driver who ran a red light; Roxanne Caswell as his girlfriend killed in the crash; and Alex Rios as the driver of the car that was hit, who suffered multiple leg and pelvic fractures and had to be extricated with the “jaws of life,” by a crew from Phoenix Fire’s Ladder 20.
The passenger in Alex’s car, 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.
Other on-scene public safety responders were Fire Engine 30, Rescue 30, multiple Phoenix Police motorcycle officers, and later, the Coroner’s Office van.
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. “The purpose of all this is to prevent death and injury because of poor choices made by young drivers.”