- 1 of 3 Photos | View More Photos
E. HOLMES DISTRICT -- A car filled with four students, three of them unbelted, whips into the driveway of Hiland High School. A video of their in-car shenanigans, including driver distraction due to occupants, music, cellphone use, is broadcast on the digital sign at the ballfield.
And, then it stops. The video show is replaced by the audio of a cellphone call from a "witness" to a two-vehicle crash.
This was the scene along the drive to the school, where students from both East and West Holmes schools gathered Monday, May 8, to witness a mock crash involving several students.
And, it was to the area of the driveway East Holmes Fire & EMS Co., the Wooster Post of the State Highway Patrol, the Holmes County Sheriff's Office, and, eventually MedFlight and Alexander Funeral Home responded to the serious injury and fatal crash.
Students quickly learned about the circumstances surrounding the crash, the result of a failure to yield violation, coupled with an illegal number of students in the vehicle and distracted driving.
On arrival, first responders quickly learned the driver of the pickup truck into which the car crashed, a West Holmes student, was "dead."
It was to that student's emotionally charged mother, who arrived on the scene, troopers had to break the news -- "I'm really sorry to tell you. Your daughter did not survive the crash," said Trooper Ron Allen. The heartbreaking news was met with not only uncontrollable sobbing, but a simple, "Can I see her?"
The others suffered a variety of injuries, including incapacitating neck and back injuries to the front seat passenger of the at-fault vehicle. Allen seized a cellphone, suspected of playing a distracting role in the crash, as possible evidence in a criminal investigation.
"We're trying to get the critically injured passengers out of the vehicle. The most critical will go by MedFlight," said East Holmes Fire Chief Gary Mellor.
Although staged on the school grounds, it's a scene not unfamiliar to local law enforcement and first responders, who, in a small community, often have a personal connection to those involved.
"It's never easy on us," said Mellor, noting, "We know just about everybody."
Charged with transporting the most critically injured to the nearest trauma center, members of the MedFlight crew work with emergency responders on the ground, who are charged with the job of stabilizing the patient, to ensure all relevant information regarding the crash and the patient's medical condition is relayed to care providers.
Realizing time is of the essence with trauma patients, hoping to reach the hospital within 15-20 minutes, they limit their downtime to only a few minutes.
It is only when all survivors are treated or en route to a hospital responders turn their attention to the dead. Working with a continued sense of urgency, they used hydraulic tools to separate the door from the frame of the pickup in which the young driver has been trapped.
Eventually, her lifeless body is pulled from the wreckage, placed on a stretcher, wheeled past the student crowd and loaded into the rear of a black hearse, which has taken the place of an emergency squad near the crash scene.
Through no action of her own, a teen lost her life. But, her death could have been prevented, said Norman, citing the failure to yield violation and distractions to the driver, top crash causing violations in Wayne and Holmes counties, and violations that, considering a young woman's death, were used in citing the driver with a host of criminal charges that he will have to face in court.
"They're pretty serious charges for a 16-year-old," said Norman, adding, "This could have been prevented."
Reporter Christine Pratt can be reached at 330-674-5676 or email@example.com.