High Point school stages mock accident
School holds program to discourage distracted, impaired driving
Rachel Rome's parents mourn as they identify her 'lifeless' body at the scene of the staged crash on.
Onlooking junior Olivia DeWitt watches in horror as EMT's take Rome's 'lifeless' body away from the scene of a mock crash May 15.
Scene of a mock drunk driving accident at High Point High School May 15.
SUSSEX BOROUGH — Police cars, EMTs and two vehicles involved in what appeared to be a drunk-driving accident.
Senior Rebecca Rome, 17 of Wantage thought she would finish out the year with the SATs, or maybe enjoy prom May 16. Instead, two Thursdays ago at High Point Regional High School, Rome was involved as the drunk driver in a mock accident—that resulted in the simulated death of her cousin in the passenger’s seat.
This year’s mock accident was coordinated by High Point High’s Student Assistance Counselor Kate Romeo.
“At first I thought it would be no big deal,” Rome said, “but once I saw my friend and family member on the hood of the car, it wasn’t fake anymore.” The simulated victim was Rome’s cousin Rachel, 17, a junior. “I hit a car with four other people in it while I was ‘drunk,’ called 9/11, and got out screaming. My cousin had been thrown through the windshield and was pronounced dead at the scene. It was horrible.”
The staged crash was witnessed by the whole school.
Rome says all emotions came naturally to her.
“I was trying to reach out to the four people in the other car that I had hit, but two passengers were unconscious and the driver was paralyzed. The passenger in the back of the car was in shock.”
The four passengers of the other vehicle were seniors Lacey Haggerty, Luke Faulkner, Trevor Floyd and Alexis Constantinacos.
According to Rome, portraying the drunk driver was particularly difficult on account of the unexpected reactions from Rachel’s friends and family:
“Even though the whole thing was staged, the accident was very realistic," she said. "After it was over, my aunt — Rachel’s mom — even pulled me aside and told me she was ready to yell at me. And how could she not? I just ‘killed’ her little girl. She told me be safe, no matter what.”
Principal Jonathan Tallamy said the mock accident was followed by an afternoon presentation from the survivor of a DUI crash, who livs with brain damage from the accident.
"Many community agencies including the Sussex and Wantage Fire Departments, the Wantage First Aid, St. Claire’s Paramedics, the New Jersey State Police and Sheriff’s Department, Bob and Bill’s Services Station and Ferguson Funeral Home volunteered their time,” Tallamy said.
Rachel Rome, also of Wantage, recalled the experience of portraying the deceased victim.
“It took three people to get me through the windshield and angled in the proper way before the mock accident was staged. They played a fake 9/11 call on the speakers. My whole body was shaking the entire time, but I had to remain very still. It took everything I had to not start crying.”
“I was very reluctant to let Rachel participate, and only allowed her to because I knew it was for a good cause,” said Rachel’s mother, Susan Rome. “The most traumatizing part was being forced to identify her body at the scene. It was terrifying. She’s my baby. I hope it gave the kids a scare, especially the day before prom, to prevent them from ever drinking and driving. It has to be the absolute worst thing to happen to a parent to lose their child like that. I don’t ever want to know that feeling.”
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