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Mock disaster drill warns students of dangers of drinking and driving

| Thursday, May 17, 2001

Blood streaks through Sarah Tomasiak's hair covered her pretty tresses, and her once perfect prom gown was tattered and torn, with blood splattered all over it.

Her friends were also covered in blood, and she wasn't sure if they were dead or alive.

This was not how she envisioned her senior prom.

Fortunately, this wasn't the real thing. The potential for teens to experience such tragedy is there, though, which is why Tomasiak, a senior at Ringgold High School, got to see - and feel - first hand the tragic consequences of drinking and driving.

Tomasiak was one of the student actors who helped stage a mock 'prom disaster' in the parking lot of Ringgold High School last week.

School officials hoped it would serve as an eye opener for those going to the Ringgold prom a night later and convince them to stay sober and refrain from drinking and driving. Their prom was held at the Holiday Inn, Meadowlands.

Ringgold juniors and seniors watched in horror as two cars 'crashed,' ejecting several of the passengers. The driver of the car, portrayed by senior Matt Wujcik, was drunk when he crashed, taking the lives of three of his friends in the mock disaster.

The drill was made to be as realistic as possible, with emergency personnel from Tri-Community Ambulance on hand. Firefighters from Carroll Township, New Eagle and Valley Inn were there, too, to extricate the other passengers, while Carroll Township police investigated the scene.

Eventually, Wujcik was taken into 'custody' by the police and charged with vehicular homicide, driving drunk and killing three students.

Lori Bartley, student activities director at Ringgold, said the mock prom disaster was made even more realistic with the help of Ringgold vocational students. The formal prom gowns were donated and taken off the old racks at Formality, a dress shop in Donora.

For the student actors - junior and senior class officers -ĂŠthey got the message loud and clear.

'It was pretty scary, especially seeing all of your friends lying there dead,' said senior Tomasiak.

Senior Amy Hufnagel agreed.

'It was so realistic, it really made you think,' she said.

In addition to Tomasiak and Hufnagel, other student actors were seniors Lloyd Price, Jason Hamilton, Jonathan Sebolt and Lauren Badini, and juniors Dana Gump and Gina Ghilani.

Ringgold High School Principal Shirley Culbya said they hold the mock prom disaster drill every two or three years in the hopes of sending a strong reminder about the dangers of drinking and driving.

'It makes kids think about drinking and driving,' Culbya said.

The accident was followed by a mock trial in the auditorium. Wujcik was led in handcuffed by Carroll Township police.

Retired Senior District Justice Walter Mark, who is handling cases at the Monongahela district justice office, served as guest judge.

'They say pictures are worth a thousand words,' Mark said to the student body. 'And this is so true.'

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