Staged 'Wreck' Drives Dangers Home for Students

NEW HANOVER COUNTY -- Emergency crews staged a dramatic scene Wednesday -- what looked like a fatal wreck -- in hopes of making the dangers of drinking and driving real to Laney High School students.

As part of the program -- designed to show students what could happen if they drink and drive on prom night -- authorities plucked students from the senior class, pronounced them dead and read their obituaries.

"If we can get a handful of them who change their mind about drinking on May 5, then we've accomplished our mission today," said Michael Stophel of the New Hanover County fire department.

Outside, students gathered around the wreck reenactment - it's a scene rescue crews say they've responded to countless times. They hope the simulation will prevent them from facing one more.

Crews put students' bodies in cars where children have actually died, then responded with stretchers, ambulances and even the Jaws of Life. Students watched away as some classmates were wheeled away, while another was arrested for DWI.

"Wow, just seeing the damage and seeing what the people could look like... it's terrible," said Laney senior James Hill.

As the rescue helicopter hovered overhead, the injured student about to be loaded said even the play-acting was overwhelming.

"The straps going across me and the neck brace going on, it all felt so real," said Laney senior Rocco Lawson.

Laney High School was the first stop for the Keys to Life program. The crews plan to stage similar programs at every high school in New Hanover County.

Reported by Kim Gebbia

Note: This story is the second in a series examining underage drinking.