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Mock Crash drives conversation at the Valley

On Wednesday, April 27, Sun Valley High School students in grades eleven and twelve experienced how one bad driving decision can change  lives forever.  The Mock Crash Program funded by a State Farm Good Neighbor Citizenship grant supported by State Farm and the Main Line Health Systems (through Riddle Hospital, Paoli Hospital, Bryn Mawr Rehab, Bryn Mawr Hospital, and Lankenau Medical Center) delivered a realistic enactment of a fatal car crash in the circle at Sun Valley, complete with high school theater students and actors from Hedgerow Theatre as well as emergency response teams from the area.  It was the first time in three years since the event was held at Sun Valley. 

A Realistic Portrayal

Students gathered in the circle at the entrance of the school at 9am, at which time tarps were removed to unveil the wreckage of two actual vehicles that were seemingly mangled in a crash.  An emergency response representative narrated the action as miked Sun Valley students portrayed victims of the impact.  

One bloodied student (portrayed by tenth grade student Alec Cianci) was seen lying across the hood through the windshield, while two other students in the same car hysterically exited to face the damage.  The other car included two students who were seriously injured and trapped in the accident.  One injured victim (eleventh grade student Samantha Young) calls 911, at which time the gathered audience hears real emergency response center chatter sending support.  

Members of the Aston Township Police and Aston Township Fire Departments, Crozer and Riddle Emergency Medical Services, and the Pennsylvania State Police responded to the call and began the real process of evaluating the situation and attending to victims.  

Tenth grade student Seamus McGroary, who portrays an impaired driver, is moved away from the scene by a state police officer who proceeds to administer an impaired driver test, which he fails.  He is eventually cuffed and put into a waiting police vehicle. 

Officer Sean Coyle, Aston Township Police officer and Resource Officer at Penn-Delco (also miked), surveyed the scene and directed first responders to injured parties.  He confirms one fatality on the hood of the vehicle then directs another responder to "cover the body".

The narrator, at this point, notes that text messages made it back to the families and two actors (from The Hedgerow Theatre) portraying distraught parents arrive and hysterically beg for information about their children.  One parent, portrayed by Susan Wefel, is given the news that her son is deceased.  A hearse from D’Anjolell Stigale Memorial Funeral Home arrives, and after fire personnel extract the body, the young victim is moved to a stretcher, bagged and placed in the vehicle. His mother wails. 

Emergency responders continue to do their work, and eventually free the two remaining survivors (portrayed by Avery Landis and Madison Meehan) from the mangled car.  Witnesses are interviewed.  Both surviving victims from the other car are placed in ambulances to be transported to critical care. 

A Sobering Reality

The audience of eleventh and twelfth graders were mostly silent throughout, some wiping off tears, others stonefaced and pensive.  A few were seen covering their mouths.   Some whispered among themselves when McGroary was cuffed and arrested.  While participating in the event, McGroary too felt the impact of the enactment.

"I thought that the entire process was a very big eye-opener," he explained. "Not just for us, but especially for the other students who watched what went down. I am very proud of what we were all able to accomplish today, and I truly feel that people will now really think about what could happen before they decide to drive under the influence."

Actor Samantha Young agrees, and was grateful to be included in this enactment.

"It is so important for people our age to know how much distracted driving can ruin their lives and hurt those around them," said Young. "The crash required so many helping hands including my fellow student actors: Alec Cianci, Seamus McGroary, Avery Landis, and Madison Meehan, cosmetology students, SV staff, and emergency response persons. While it was hard for us student actors to put ourselves in that position, it is so important that we portrayed the carnage that occurs often from teen car accidents."

Principal John Paul Roskos believes in the relevance of this difficult experience as well. 

“It is very important to us to take every step we can to help minimize the chances of something horrific ever happening to our young people. It is our hope that everyone leaves this event inspired to make the best choices they possibly can and help spread awareness.”

A Personal Testimony

After witnessing the shocking result of a DWI, students quietly moved to the newly renovated auditorium where Debbie Mantegna from Main Line Health opened the program, introducing Bobby Bisignaro, a thirty-five year old representative from Brywn Mawr Rehabilitation Hospital who was critically injured during a roll over accident.  Admittedly enebriated and careless, the man was thrown from a pickup truck in 2005 and received catastrophic injuries that still impact his quality of life.  

Mr. Bisignaro lives with impaired legs, hips, and a brain injury that prevents him from living on his own.  He communicated his regret for having to be dependant on his siblings and parents, and shared his gratitude for their support.  He regularly speaks with students across the region and volunteers at the Brywn Mawr Rehabilitation Center where he convalesced more than a decade ago.

Students sat attentively as he shared his battle with drugs and alcohol and how one bad choice to drive with impaired acquaintances cost him his wellbeing.  After his prepared speech, students asked many questions about his daily life and continued recovery.  

Michael Dougherty, a State Farm Agent from Brookhaven also spoke to the students, outlining the realities of impaired driving and the real world effects it can have on their adulthood, referring to data on distracted driving like eating and texting behind the wheel. 

Dwayne Redd, a State Farm Corporate Responsibility Analyst, who helped coordinate the event, reiterated the value of partnerships like these in saving lives. 

“Motor vehicle crashes are still the number one cause of death among teens in the U.S.  So, it was a ‘no brainer’ for State Farm to partner with everyone to bring awareness and education around this topic to the Sun Valley community. We will continue to stay strongly committed to doing everything we can to reduce teen crashes and help save lives.”