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Students get reality check

Staged crash gives Newport Harbor juniors and seniors a sobering look at the deadly effects of drunk driving.

May 31, 2011|By Lauren Williams, lauren.williams@latimes.com
  • Hamilton Randle and Morgan Murray participate in a simulation of a teen DUI fatal car crash at Newport Harbor High School on Tuesday.
Hamilton Randle and Morgan Murray participate in a simulation… (SCOTT SMELTZER,…)

Jordan Pickard spent time "in jail" on her 17th birthday.

The Newport Harbor High School student participated in a mock drunk-driving crash staged Tuesday morning on campus in front of about 1,200 juniors and seniors.

Her parents, Scott and Kim Pickard, watched as she feigned failing a sobriety test at the scene.

Parents were asked to write obituaries for and collect photos of children involved in the fake crash.

"Writing the obit was really weird," said Kim Pickard, who said she bawled while writing her daughter's obituary over the weekend instead of planning her teenager's birthday party.

A make-up artist and wardrobe supervisor from Knott's Berry Farm used fake blood to simulate gashes, wounds and create the appearance of blood trickling out of the overturned sedan used in the crash.

The staging began with someone calling in the accident, which was played over loudspeakers, and three motorcycle police officers arriving on the scene. Firefighters then removed the roof of Pickard's car to free a passenger and take away an "injured" student. Another was taken from the other vehicle.

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Throughout the morning, other students were taken out of their classrooms every 15 minutes — the rate at which children die due to drunk driving — to illustrate the loss felt when a classmate dies in a drunk-driving accident. The 15 students selected stood silently in the background during the staging with their faces painted white with black make-up around their eyes and mouths.

Another student pretended to be dead on the pavement, as he was loaded into a body bag and carried away in a coroner's van.

As the demonstration came to an end, the dead students followed the van off the scene, with the Grim Reaper as an escort.

Scott Pickard said the issue of drunk driving hit close to home for his family after his son's best friend had a series of surgeries and later had his leg amputated after being involved in a drunk driving accident more than a year ago.

"It's something that still affects us today," Scott Pickard said.

Newport Beach Police Chief Jay Johnson and other police members, and four members of the Marine Corps were also present at the event.

Another assembly is scheduled for Wednesday, where students will be shown footage of the ramifications of the accident and what happened to the four student actors after they parted ways — going to the morgue, jail and Hoag Hospital.

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