TRURO - First came the sirens.
Then, the bone-chilling screams of accident victims ripped through the air as firefighters worked to free the burned and mangled teens from the carnage of a head-on collision caused by a drunk driver.
Fortunately, it was all just a mock, Safe Grad exercise to drive home the impacts of drinking and driving prior to parties and celebrations that accompany each year's rite of passage for graduating high school students.
For participants such as Natasha Wamboldt, however, who played the part of the driver and fatality victim of the car struck by the drinking driver, the exercise was a stark reminder of just how real such events can be.
"I had a cousin that died in a drunk driving accident. He was the drunk driver but it kind of had an impact on me, like this can happen to anybody," she said.
Too often, she suggested, teenagers go about their lives with the feeling of immortality and thoughts of "it'll happen to someone else but it can't possibly happen to me," until they become embroiled in a life-changing situation that can't be reversed.
"It could happen to anybody," she said.
As the Grade 12 student body watched from the sidelines, the mock exercise was carried out through the assistance of the Truro and Bible Hill fire departments, Truro Police Service, EHS paramedics, CEC Safe Grad and Phantom FX staff, who prepared the students in makeup to appear as badly injured or dead accident victims. Afterwards, the students returned to school for a further presentation by Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) on the dangers and very negative impact and consequences that such practice poses to others - family, friends and community.
Grade 12 student Natalie Hearn said the reality of the exercise should help to make a lot of students think twice when they head off for their graduation celebrations.
"I think it really brought to light what really happens in these kind of situations because people don't really understand how intense it gets and how real it is," she said. "I've been in situations where I know these things happen, and they did a really good job."
Amanda Morrisey, president of MADD Cobequid agreed.
"This is very effective today because it is hands on with the kids. Quite often it gets old when you're hearing the same message over again. Today was a new and innovative way here to showcase the message and bring it home to the kids to make responsible choices," she said.
"Until someone's in an actual crash themselves or have seen it, they don't realize, you know, the carnage at the side of the road and I think it was shocking for a lot of people because it was so realistic, seeing the makeup of what it actually looks like when someone's been in an impaired driving crash and knowing that there are consequences for making poor decisions and their actions."
MADD Canada estimates there are somewhere between 1,250 and 1,500 impairment-related crash deaths in Canada each year3, which averages out to approximaely four deaths per day. Additionally, approximately 175 persons per day are injured in drug and alcohol related impaired driving incidents.
And one only has to look at the convictions going through the local courts, she suggested, to know that drinking and driving remains a threat to the safety of other motorists in Colchester County.
Ryland McNutt, a member of the Bible Hill Volunteer Fire Department, who help co-ordinate the exercise, said it was specifically designed to help show students the impact that drinking and driving can have, especially when they see firefighters using tools such as the Jaws of Life to free victims trapped inside a wrecked vehicle.
"Even if all we save is one life, doing all this effort is worth it," he said.