Ocean View High School hosted events Monday and Tuesday to warn about the perils of drunk driving.
The “Every 15 Minutes” program, which is offered annually to one of the four Huntington Beach high schools, commenced with a reenactment of a fatal traffic incident that left one student dead and four seriously injured.
Students watched how Huntington Beach police and fire officials respond to such 911 calls, including using the Jaws of Life to pry open wrecked cars.
Senior Taylor Voegelie, 17, played the role of a student who died after flying through the windshield because she didn’t wear a seat belt. She lay still on the street as paramedics tried to “resuscitate” her before calling the coroner.
Taylor volunteered for the reenactment because she wanted to give her peers a “reality check.”
Before Monday’s staged collision outside campus on Gothard Street, Ocean View students were pulled from their classrooms every 15 minutes by a California Highway Patrol officer and a costumed Grim Reaper. The increments symbolized about how often people die because of impaired driving nationwide.
The students, referred to as the “living dead,” spent Monday night at the Waterfront Beach Resort before Tuesday’s mock funeral in the Ocean View gym.
Parents wrote letters to their children. One was read aloud during the “funeral,” a campuswide assembly emceed by Councilwoman Lyn Semeta.
“Please let the last two days be a reminder that life is precious,” Semeta said.
The funeral began with student pallbearers walking to a stage. Other students placed red roses on the casket.
Police Chief Rob Handy spoke about seeing the human devastation of drunk driving during his decades in law enforcement.
“These visions I will never get out of my head,” he said.
After reading “Death of an Innocent,” by an anonymous poet about a child who dies from the actions of a drunk driver, the school played a mock video showing three Ocean View girls pretending to drink vodka in Central Park.
The “intoxicated” girls get in a car and end up hitting another car with two Ocean View students inside.
The driver, played by senior Penelope Russ, fails a mock field sobriety test and is taken to jail, where she makes an emotional phone call to her family.
In an emotional telling of a true story, Jodie Pittenger, an Ocean View High secretary, shared how a drunk driver killed her 17-year-old brother.
Pittenger recalled being awoken with news that her brother was seriously injured. She had worried about him attending an infamous party earlier that day.
“It just seemed like a nightmare, that he was going to come home any minute,” she said.
Pittenger said she learned that the driver had previously been involved in another fatal car accident. She said that man recently died at age 65, as a grandfather.