By Kaylee Lindenmuth
MAHANOY TOWNSHIP - Mahanoy Area students received a sobering reminder of what could happen should they drive drunk or otherwise impaired or distracted, days before the school's prom night and weeks before graduation.
The scenario took place outside the Mahanoy Area High School, where two wrecked cars, donated by Hope's Towing of Tamaqua, were set up to simulate a crash. Despite being a dramatization, the scenario remained true-to-life.
Students from grades seven through 12 gathered on the lawn of the West End Fire Company for the demonstration, which simulated an actual response from fire crews, from the 911 call to the first dispatch of emergency crews.
Mahanoy City and Township police arrived with lights and sirens activated, along with Mahanoy City Fire Chief Dan Markiewicz, who confirmed via radio a two vehicle crash with entrapment. Then, Mahanoy City fire personnel from the Humane and West End companies, along with Mahanoy City EMS, arrived in the same fashion, and began work as if it were a real crash.
One student, senior Ashley Walker, who portrayed the drunk driver behind the wheel of a Ford Explorer, was taken into custody by Corporal Charles Kovalewski, borough police, and Chief Brandon Alexander, township police.
Humane personnel readied hose lines while West End crews shored up the two cars before attempting to extricate the other students.
One student, senior Samuel Sinopoli, portrayed a passenger in the Chevy Cobalt, which was struck by the Explorer, who passed away.
Three other students portrayed victims in the crash -- seniors Armelle Metellus, Leslie Gonzalez, and Dario Vivar. Each was extricated from their respective vehicle and taken to the awaiting Mahanoy City Ambulance.
Sinopoli's character was removed from the Cobalt and laid down next to the vehicle, covered by a white sheet until Schuylkill County Deputy Coroner David Truskowsky's arrival. Mahanoy Area staff member Paula Onisick portrayed Sinopoli's mother, distraught and consoled by Kovalewski. When Truskowsky arrived and pronounced Sinopoli's character dea
Truskowsky, a Mahanoy City native, helped organize the demonstration, the fourth in the county he's been involved in. He spoke to the students afterward, urging them to "make the right choice."
"Kids these days are learning from these types of events and they're making the right choices," said Truskowsky. "However, there's other things that are killing young people like you guys. Always make the right choice. If you're going to do something, anything that you don't want your mom or dad to see, that should be your gold standard: don't do it. That'll keep you out of trouble."
Truskowsky added that they should "drive [their] cars like [their] lives depend on it."
"Because it does, and so does everybody else's," said Truskowsky. "So don't text. Don't be a distracted driver. Most importantly, you could be driving down the street, hands at ten and two, watch out for that oncoming car because they might not be paying attention, they might be on their cell phone texting, or intoxicated. Always watch out for the other guy."
Truskowsky also stressed the dangers of opioid use, and the negative impacts of addiction. He also stressed the genuine nature of the event.
"There's nothing that you saw today that wouldn't actually take place out in the field," said Truskowsky. "The only thing missing is... the gore. That's always something that's rough on us firefighters to deal with is seeing what we see out there. However, what we do is giving back to the community in such a way that nobody else can."
"We can use help, so consider, if you're sticking around after school, coming by a firehouse, grabbing an application, and joining up with us, because we need help," Truskowsky added. "Who's going to come out when that car wraps around a telephone pole at one in the afternoon or two in the morning? It's going to be us, and we can use all the help we can."
Markiewicz spoke after Truskowsky, emphasizing the impact a DUI crash could have on their futures, their lives, and their families.
"Just think of how your mom and dad or guardian would feel if you went through something like that," said Markiewicz. "That would be like getting an eraser and wiping all of your achievements over the past 12 years away. So, what I want you to do is, go home and thank your parents for what they do for you."
Kovalewski then spoke shortly, telling students that, though he doesn't condone underage drinking, "if you do, don't drive."
"Let me tell you from experience, I've been doing this for 20-plus years... and even as a parent, I think your parents would much rather a phone call to come and pick you up than to find you dead alongside the road," Kovalewski said.
Truskowsky added that one vehicle came from a crash involving a school bus, and the other from a DUI crash.
A full photo gallery will be posted soon.
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