HOBART | The two-car fatal crash caused by drinking promgoers was staged but sent a sobering message to students who watched outside Hobart High School.
"I just saw my best friend get taken away in a body bag," freshman Corbin Ols said.
His friend, senior Mady Vicari, didn't really die in the simulated crash scene which was held at 11:15 a.m. and again at 1:15 p.m. on Monday.
Vicari was one of dozens of students who participated in the event which is part of a two-day program called Every 15 Minutes, said Cathy Nelson, high school teacher/coordinator.
The message of the program is to remind students prior to the school's prom on Saturday not to drive while under the influence or drive distracted, Nelson said.
"In the blink of an eye you could be one of the kids in the crashed car. Your parents could be one of those driving to the scene to see their child dead on the road due to a bad decision made," Nelson told students.
Sophomore Gabriella Acosta said she won't be attending this year's prom but doesn't intend to ever drink and drive in the future.
"I just can't imagine how horrible going to the scene of a crash would be for the parents, family and everyone involved," Acosta said.
Fellow sophomore Marissa Stefans said she already knew prior to the program that she wouldn't drink and drive.
"But now I am going to warn others not to drink and drive," Stefans said.
Every 15 Minutes is a national program started in 1996 in California challenging teens to think about the dangers of drinking impaired, Lt. Jack Grennes said.
The focus now also includes not driving while distracted such as by using a cellphone or text messages, Grennes said.
"If this saves the life of one person it's worth it," Police Chief Rick Zormier said.
Nelson and Grennes worked together to set up the program, which was initiated at the school in 2010.
A number of emergency responders — police, firefighters, paramedics and the Lake County coroner's office — participated in Monday's drill, as did the Lake County Sheriff's Department, which landed a helicopter in the parking lot.
Program activities will continue today with a mock memorial service for students killed in the fake crash.