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Students learn grisly lessons of driving and drinking

March 31, 2004|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

HEDGESVILLE, W.Va. - Students at Hedgesville High School got a lesson Tuesday on what can happen if partying and driving are mixed.

In a presentation reminiscent of the graphic car-crash movies that once were shown in driver's education classes, two Florida paramedics showed the students what can happen if they use poor judgment about alcohol and drug use.

Paramedics Scott Neusch and Vince Easevoli began by flashing photographs of car accident scenes on a large screen in an auditorium.

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Neusch warned the estimated 160 students gathered that the scenes could be disturbing.

"If you got to get sick, hit a trash can," Neusch said.

Each of the pictures depicted a car crash in which seat belts were not used and either drugs or alcohol were involved.

There were images of twisted bodies, body parts and smashed heads.

Other stories were mixed in, like a girl who joined some friends once to go "pool hopping," which is running through people's yards and jumping in their pools. The kids were taking Quaaludes, a once-popular drug, Neusch said.

The girl climbed a ladder to a diving board and dove in, apparently unaware there was no water in the pool, Neusch said.

The girl was found in a puddle of blood with her spinal cord sticking out of her back, Neusch said.

Neusch and Easevoli appeared at Hedgesville High School as part of Street Smart, a nationwide educational program designed to help students learn how to make responsible choices in their behavior. Street Smart is supported by Anheuser-Busch and Jim Linsenmeyer, general manager of Jefferson Distributing in Martinsburg, W.Va., who was involved in Tuesday's presentation.

Neusch and Easevoli said they were not at the school to preach. They said they were presenting facts they hope will make students think twice about drug and alcohol abuse.

"We're just going to let you all walk out and make your own informed decisions," said Neusch, who is a firefighter and paramedic for the city of Orlando, Fla.

Neusch said he and Easevoli see a lot of car crashes, and most people killed are between the ages of 12 and 24.

"Where does that put you guys? Right in the middle," Neusch said.

Most of the deaths occur because seat belts are not used, Neusch said.

Neusch asked the students to raise their hands if they often ignore seat-belt use. A large number raised their hands.

They were also asked if they know someone who likes to party. Nearly everyone raised their hands.

The photographs continued.

Neusch and Easevoli said air bags do not always provide adequate protection.

A photograph was shown of a man who was in an accident and not wearing a seat belt. On impact, the air bag deployed and forced his head out the window and into a utility pole.

The paramedics picked a student out of the crowd - 15-year-old Doug Copenhaver - to help illustrate what happens in a car crash.

Copenhaver found himself on a stretcher, representing an accident victim who plowed into the back of a dump truck.

Neusch and Easevoli went into detail about what procedures they would use in such a wreck. They set up poles to hold intravenous lines and described how they would have to cut a hole in his throat so they could slip a hose into his chest to inflate a lung that collapsed.

It was enough to make Copenhaver think.

He had said during the presentation he did not like seat belts because they were uncomfortable. Copenhaver said he now plans to wear seat belts.

"It made me think about my friend because he was in an accident," Copenhaver said after the program.

Copenhaver said his friend died in the accident.

Neusch and Easevoli closed their presentation saying that if they came back a year from now, chances are high that someone in the audience will have died from a traumatic accident.

"The law of averages dictate that," said Easevoli, a paramedic for the Miami Dade Fire Department.

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