Video project injects some reality into mock DUI drill in Glenwood
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado
GLENWOOD SPRINGS – Abril Loya won’t be getting that scholarship to Princeton University after all, thanks to a poor choice on prom night that led to her being charged with underage drinking.
That’s hardly the worst of it, though.
She’s also left to deal with the heavy burden knowing that her actions contributed to the deaths of three of her classmates, Rachel Sobke, Sally Barnes and Kelsey Warkentin, in a drunken-driving accident on the way to what was supposed to be one of the most special nights of their young lives.
Another student involved in the accident who was set to graduate later this month, Britney McElfresh, was left paralyzed from the neck down, her future plans in serious question as well.
Fellow Glenwood Springs High School senior Stuart Jenkins was driving that night. He’s now in jail, charged with DUI and vehicular homicide; his life pretty much ruined by the decision to get behind the wheel of his pickup truck after drinking at a pre-prom party.
“Hopefully, this will change some of the choices people make, and save some kids from making a bad decision,” said McElfresh, one of nine real-life GSHS student actors involved in the mock drunken-driving accident scenario that played out at the school Thursday.
The real names and faces were intended to give extra impact during the junior/senior student assembly, as GSHS prepares for Saturday’s prom and graduation later this month.
Adding drama to the program, a six-month-long video-making project, in which the participating students were involved in leading up to the mock event.
The project was orchestrated by Glenwood firefighter engineer Steve Sandoval, a four-year member of the Glenwood Springs Fire Department who volunteered to organize the first mock DUI event to occur at GSHS in several years.
“Growing up in California in a gang-infested community, I saw people drinking and driving getting into bad accidents on a weekly basis,” said Sandoval, who grew up in Fresno.
“I offered to put it together, and the fire department opened the door for me to make it a huge production and something memorable for the students,” he said.
At the start of the school year, he approached GSHS Principal Paul Freeman who put him in contact with the drama teacher to help line up the student actors.
“With the videos, we wanted the kids to get a feel for how it goes down, from beginning to end,” Sandoval said.
“We’re not trying to ruin their prom, we’re just trying to make sure they don’t ruin their lives,” he said.
Prior to Thursday’s staged DUI accident scene outside, students gathered in the auditorium to view the first of two videos, in which one group of students is shown in a series of still shots, decked out in formal wear and partying it up with beer and booze before heading to the prom.
The scene switches to a group of girls across town, primping before their dates arrive. Eventually, the two groups jump into their respective vehicles and head off to the prom. En route, tragedy strikes when their vehicles collide.
The assembly moves outside to view the mock accident scene, where two smashed vehicles are covered with blood; dead and badly injured bodies strewn about, shock and bewilderment for the teens who are still conscious but trapped in one of the vehicles.
Police and emergency crews arrive and assess the situation, pronouncing two of the teens dead at the scene. CPR ensues to try to save Warkentin, while a crew works to cut the others free. Police administer roadside sobriety tests to Jenkins, and subsequently arrest him. Parents arrive on scene and are told the grim news, then the coroner comes and takes the bodies of the deceased.
Back inside, students view the second video, this one in live motion, showing ambulance workers continuing CPR on Warkentin.
Adding an unplanned bit of realism, the previously recorded video shows the ambulance pulling up to the hospital in a snowstorm. Ironically, it was snowing Thursday during the mock event.
The young girl is pronounced dead in the hospital, and the parents of both Warkentin and McElfresh arrive to learn their daughters’ respective fates.
“It was pretty realistic and makes you see how bad it is when something like that happens,” GSHS junior Casey Montoya said after the assembly. “It definitely gets into your mind, and makes you not want to put your parents through something like that.”
Added Sobke, “It’s more useful and has a lot more impact with the videos. And when you know the students involved, that’s what’s going to help get the message across.”
Other student actors in the project included Alex Pototsky, Taylor Parsons and Travis Whitman.
In addition to the Glenwood Fire Department, other participating agencies included the Glenwood Springs Police Department, Garfield County Sheriff’s Office, Colorado State Patrol, Valley View Medical Center, Farnum Holt Funeral Homes, Two Rivers Video Production and Funky Little Mountain Flower Photography. Tri State Care Flight was to have participated with a live helicopter landing, but Thursday’s snowy weather was prohibitive.
Mother Nature — and some unfortunate training injuries — completely changed the vibe around the women’s halfpipe skiing final on Saturday at X Games Aspen.