Jun 18, 2014 Allie Wenner Uncategorized
On June 11, the Manlius Police Department, East Syracuse and Minoa Fire Departments, E.A.V.E.S first responders, medical examiners and representatives from Schepp Family Funeral Homes were on the scene at East Syracuse Minoa High School for what appeared to be a two-car drunk driving accident.
In the simulated accident, ESM junior Ian Holm was driving drunk and hit a car head-on carrying Zach Glanton and Chandler Cronk, killing both students. Holm, Glanton, Cronk and Phoenix Merritt, who was Holm’s passenger, were all covered in “blood” makeup, done by the high school drama department.
“I know a lot of my friends like to hang out and maybe have a few beers,” said Jeanine Kohler, a senior at ESM. “But seeing something like this – it really hits you hard and you think it could be you.”
The simulation began with ESM students Gina Brainard and Robert Schill discovering that their friends had been in a car crash. Schill called 911, and the emergency responders began rushing into the ESM High School parking lot, where the entire senior class was seated.
The mock crash was narrated by Romana Lavalas from the Onondaga County District Attorney’s Office, who handles all of the underage drinking cases in the county.
“I’m really glad to be here, because usually, if I’m talking to a young person, it’s because they’ve been arrested,” she said to the crowd. “So the fact that I’m able to be here and talk to you before anything like that happens is a good thing. Because hopefully it’ll never happen and you’ll never have to meet me in a professional capacity.”
The Manlius Police Department was the first to arrive, followed closely by the Minoa and East Syracuse Fire Departments, which immediately began tearing the cars apart in order to get the students out safely. Glanton and Cronk were pronounced dead at the scene and were taken away in a hearse by representatives from Schepp Family Funeral Homes, while Merritt was taken to the hospital with minor injuries. Holm, however, was not seriously injured and was questioned by Manlius Police Officer Ben Kapusta.
“Stand on the white line for me, feet together,” Kapusta instructed, while the senior class looked on. “When I tell you to, you’re going to take the leg of your choice – right or left – and you’re going to raise your foot six inches off the ground. Point your toe to the sky and count out loud until I tell you to stop.”
After performing a few other sobriety tests, Holm was arrested for driving while intoxicated after blowing a .18 on a breathalyzer test. He was then arraigned on charges of vehicular manslaughter and driving while intoxicated by village of Minoa Judge Janet Stanley, and later sentenced to two and a half to seven years in prison.
“As a prosecutor, the fact that a person was killed here – I’m asking for state prison time, even though he’s probably never had so much as a traffic ticket in his life,” Lavalas said. “People here are dead, they’re not coming back. So it’s my job to request state prison – that’s what I think is just in this case.”
The mock crash, during which several crying students were escorted into the building, was held three days before ESM’s Senior Ball. This was the second year that the high school has held a DWI crash simulation. It was started last year by Amy Mayers, a teaching assistant at ESM High School whose car was hit head-on by a drunk driver 25 years ago.
“I hope the kids take away the seriousness of what this really is,” Mayers said. “They may think, ‘Oh, it’s just a car accident, but when there are fatalities and they’re in jail for vehicular manslaughter… they need to think twice about it. And know that they’re not the only ones that are affected. There are the family members and friends that are also impacted – it’s not just one person.”
ESM High School Principal Greg Avellino said that the goal is to have students make good choices, and that even if they do choose to drink, that they know never to drive.
“If they do make a mistake [and drink,] I hope that they will call their parents because any consequence that they get from their parents will be far less severe than if they were to get in a drunk driving accident.”
New York State’s “Zero Tolerance” law came into effect in 1996 to crack down on underage drinking and driving. The Zero Tolerance law applies to a person under age 21 who operates a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration of .02 percent or more but not more than .07 percent. Any young adult who blows between those numbers on a breathalyzer test is charged with the traffic offense of “driving after having consumed alcohol.” They then will be provided with a notice to appear for a hearing before an administrative law judge of the Department of Motor Vehicles. And if a person has a BAC of .08 percent or more, he or she is charged with a DWI and arrested and dealt with in criminal court.
“It definitely hits you,” said Kohler. “I worry about some of my friends who drive and I worry about myself sometimes. So knowing that ESM does things like this is really comforting to know that they care and want us to be safe.”