The screams of frantic teenage girls are drowned out by the sounds of sirens in the distance. A fatal car crash involving five teenagers coming home from a festival has occurred. With police sirens wailing, the golden hour of life begins to tick as the girls struggle to find a phone to call for help.
The severity of the crash makes it obvious that it is far too late for one of the girls. Two of the other girls involved will be taken off to the University Medical Hospital intensive care unit for immediate surgery. Even the girls that were not physically hurt will have emotional scars. The night, however, has just begun. and the Louisiana State Troopers still have the daunting task of informing the families of what has occurred.
Thankfully, this scenario was only an enactment of the horrors of an actual automobile crash. Staged at Dominican in October, it was a part of the Sudden Impact program to raise awareness to impaired and distracted driving. The Louisiana State Police and University Medical Hospital work closely together to ensure a realistic reenactment of what a car crash looks like. Students from the sophomore, junior and senior classes participated in the mock crash in order to reinforce the very serious message about safe driving.
Students who portrayed those in the mock crash were senior Carlin Dougherty, junior Rebecca Koenig, junior Hailey Mathieu and sophomores Camryn and Sydney Wisniewski
Assistant Principal/Dean of Students Ms. Sheri Salvagio (’84) worked with these students and the Sudden Impact program to make sure the crash communicated the effects of distracted and impaired driving, as well as seat belt importance. “My goal is to give students the tools to make good decisions in order to keep themselves safe,” said Ms. Salvagio.
“Being in the crash really made me realize how many people one bad decision affects,” said Dougherty. She also said that the crash became real the instant she began to shake Mathieu, whose character died in the crash.
“I will never forget the impact it had on everyone, and I would never want to put anyone through that,” Mathieu said.
Koenig portrayed the driver of the car that was hit and was wearing her seatbelt. Because her character was not impaired and wearing a seat belt, Koenig walked away from the crash physically unscathed. Her passengers, sophomores Camryn and Sydney Wisniewski, both played characters that had to be taken into the intensive care unit due to their injuries in the crash.
“I totally forgot I was acting,” said Camryn Wisniewski. “The worry for my sister became real as soon as I started to scream.”
Sudden Impact Continues with Mock Trial
The room was silent as Dougherty entered in an orange jumpsuit in handcuffs knowing that her entire future lied within the jury’s hands. The tension in the room grew as the defense attempted to reach a settlement in order to avoid a full trial. After a failed attempt to settle, it was now the prosecutor’s job to prove beyond reasonable doubt to the jury that Dougherty deserved the charge of vehicular homicide.
On Nov. 18, the mock trial enactment followed the mock crash and revealed the shocking reality of the legal effects of distracted and impaired driving. The Hon. Rebecca M. Olivier (’82), Division “A” from First Parish Court of Jefferson Parish, presided over the mock trial, where Dougherty’s character faced charges of vehicular homicide, driving under the influence, .
The prosecuting attorney, Ms. Amanda Calogero, Jefferson Parish Assistant District Attorney, represented the Mathieus and Wisniewskis who still were mourning the effects of the crash on their daughters.
The defense attorney, Mr. David Bravo of Bravo Law Firm, raised the argument about how his client, Dougherty, had her whole life to live and should not be shoved in a metal cell. However, Dougherty was found guilty on all five counts, including vehicular homicide.
Dougherty’s sentence included 15 years, with 5 of those years being served concurrently, which was decided by the 12 student jury. “It is hard to imagine my life could be changed so drastically from one avoidable mistake,” said Dougherty. This enactment was an emotional case that ended in justice for the Mathieus and Wisniewskis; however, it will never reverse the lasting effects of Dougherty’s poor decisions.
The mock trial concluded the multistep Sudden Impact program aimed at raising awareness to the severe effects of irresponsible driving. Dominican’s participation in this program includes annual educational seminars for students in the tenth grade. This program educates and encourages students to make intelligent decisions while on the road and throughout their lives.
– Stephanie Mayer