It’s one thing to imagine a fatal car accident; it’s quite another to see it reenacted by your friends and classmates right in front of you.
Recently students in higher grades witnessed what looked like the aftermath of drunk driving with a fatality, recreated behind the school. This was no museum piece, however. First responders arrived with sirens and full gear exactly as they would in real life. Patients were silent and unmoving in vehicles and on the grass. Detective Sergeant Dustin Semitanna, who is both a detective and an accident reconstructionist, arrived as is required with a 2-car fatality, and assisted Deputy Smith who was early on the scene.
Everything was happening all at once: assessing injuries, keeping patients stable, moving patients to the ambulance, covering the fatality with a white sheet, conducting a sobriety test for one of the drivers. Where do you look? Everywhere.
Afterwards, students moved to the MPR where Chenango County Attorney Zachary Wentworth acted as judge presiding over an arraignment of the alleged drunk driver. He read the law, the time, the location of the incident. He described the accident and death, noting that the victim was ejected because the driver failed to stop at a stop sign and hit another vehicle. He noted that the drunk driver’s blood alcohol measurement was over 2 times the legal limit. He asked the driver how he knew the victim.
“Judge” Wentworth also set bail at $250,000 cash, and explained that the charges could result in up to 15 years in state prison for aggravated D W I, blood alcohol limits, reckless driving, speeding in a school zone, no stopping at a stop sign, and more.
The reenactment won’t soon be forgotten thanks to our student actors, fire personnel, EMTs, and law enforcement. Every participant stayed in character and proceeded as if the accident and subsequent arraignment were true and happening in the present moment. It was sometimes hard to watch, and that’s why it worked.
We are so grateful to those who came to share this important teaching moment with our students, some of whom are also Otselic Valley alumni:
Zachary Wentworth, Chenango County Attorney and former Public Defender
Dustin Semitanna, Detective Sergeant
Robert Ullrich, Assistant Chief
David Palmer, Jr., Assistant Chief
Kevin Grewe, Lieutenant
Bill Wentworth, President
Emily Comfort, EMT
Tom Larkin, Emergency Squad Captain
Jim Cross, Otselic Fire Chief
Carl McCainn, EMT
Harold Comfort, fire personnel
Suki Fox, squad personnel
Olin Comfort, squad personnel (and current OV student)
Special commendation goes out to SADD members and advisors for everything – this wasn’t easy, especially for Matt Wetterer, Paige Palmer, Conner Ossont, Josh Merida, Gracie Poole, Tori Foster, Emily Smith, and Linda Nelson.
We are also grateful to Deputy Smith, our School Resource Officer, who helped arrange this event and manage the incident during the reenactment. “I think overall it went really well,” he said. “I appreciate the support of Mrs. Gonzalez and Mrs. Richards for allowing us to do it, and to Ms. Eaton and Mrs. Whorrall who met with the SADD students regularly. All the students did an outstanding job.
To all the students going to prom and other events now and through the end of the school year, please make good choices and celebrate safely.”
Next year’s re-enactment is already in the planning stages, and will present a different kind of accident. We will be watching for it.
[See photos in a Facebook photo album found here.]