Riverside Mock Wreck sends message
The crash scene at Riverside High School on March 5 was a mock wreck but the message was very real. The vivid accident scene with sirens and screams sent a strong message on what can happen when people choose to drink and drive.
EAST Initiative students April Baker and Allana Carroll coordinated the event with fellow students, Lake City, county and state law officers, Lake City Rescue units, firefighters, ambulance service, coroner, helicopter and other volunteers in an eye-opening scenario of what can happen.
Students got a first-hand look at an accident scene with students trapped inside the wrecked cars, others thrown from the vehicles, frantic parents, rescue squads, and one driver placed in handcuffs.
Todd Emison, former state trooper, helped with the program encouraging the young people not to drink and drive. He talked about distracted driving. Statistics from 2014 show 3,179 people were killed and 431,000 injured in vehicle crashes involving distracted driving. He spoke of the reaction time and how just three seconds of distraction can be too late.
Following the mock wreck scene, students gathered in the gymnasium. Guest speakers were Judge Dan Stidham and JoAnne Gamble.
Gamble said she had spoken at mock wrecks before but this one was the most difficult because she knew so many of the students and staff a Riverside.
Gamble shared her personal story of the loss of her 13 year old daughter, Carla. Carla was killed by a drunk driver 29 years ago. The driver hit Carla and her friend as they were sitting on an ATV less than a mile from her home.
"What I am telling you are the facts," Gamble said. "My daughter's friend survived the accident and was able to tell us what happened. When a drunk driver causes a wreck, it is not an accident. I hope you hear my story and maybe your parents will not have to go through what I did."
Gamble recalled the last words Carla said to her, "I love you, I'll be back before dark." Thirty minutes later there was a knock on the door and a man informed her the girls had been hit. She said she arrived at the scene to find her daughter lying on the side of the road. Carla was taken to Le Bonheur Children's Hospital.
"The doctor told she would not make it," Gamble said. "Her injuries were too severe. She never woke up."
The man who hit them was later found guilty of manslaughter and sentenced to 10 years in prison. He served 18 months.
"My daughter will never come home," Gamble said. "She never got to go into the eighth grade, she never get to go to a prom, she will never graduate from high school, and she never got to be married.
"I am not here to judge you. I'm not against a person having a drink or two. It is none of my business. It is my business when they choose to drink and drive. No one should have to go through what I have had to go through. No one should have to lay on the side of the road in the gravel begging their child not to go. I am still broken-hearted 29 years later. One man's wrong decision has hurt so many lives."
Judge Stidham applauded Mrs. Gamble for the courage it took for her to talk to the young people and share her story.
"I can tell you what you saw is close to reality," Judge Stidham said.
He went on to share a personal story and talked to the young people about the consequences of drinking and driving. He said if they are stopped and have been drinking their license wil be suspended until they are 21 years old and insurance will go up.
He distributed pamphlets on Teens, Alcohol and the Law. He talked about how one bad choice can follow them forever.
"When you drink and drive, you are not only endangering your own life but others as well," he said
Judge Stidham encouraged students to make the right choices and not give in to peer pressure.