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West students witness Shattered Dreams (w/video, gallery)

By Carolina Astrain
May 1, 2014 at 12:01 a.m.

Sarah Warner lays on the hood of the car as one of the injured individuals while students watch the staged car crash during Shattered Dreams at Victoria West High School.

THE PROCESS

Victoria West High School students started their morning in class, where the Grim Reaper, acted out by football coach James McCarter, began to select students who volunteered to act as the living dead, representing the young people who die every 15 minutes on the nation's roadways.

From there, students gathered outside the school to watch the emergency response units work the staged drunken driving accident scene.

A Citizens Air Medical helicopter whirred onto the scene to transport a gravely injured student actor to the hospital.

A hearse later appeared to pick up another student actor who died at the scene.

The student who played the drunken driver was arrested and booked by Department of Public Safety troopers.

He was later released and joined the other student volunteers for an overnight lock-in at the YMCA of the Golden Crescent to further dramatize the loss.

On Friday, a fake memorial service featuring a casket procession will be in the school gymnasium.

Source: Victoria school district

FROM THE CROWD

Victoria West High School students Josue Guzman and Dylan Redding reflected on car accidents they've experienced as they watched the Shattered Dreams demonstration.

"I was in the car with my mother when we were T-boned by another vehicle." Dylan, 16, said. "This brings back memories from what was a very scary experience."

"I've been in two accidents before," Josue, 18, said in Spanish. "One of them was with my brother; our tire ripped."

A helicopter whirred onto the scene of a staged accident at Victoria West High School on Thursday.

Ysabel Fuentez pressed her tear-ridden face into her palms, covered in fake blood, while sitting cross-legged in the Victoria West parking lot.

She wailed as a helicopter descended upon the campus to rescue a student actor from the scene of a staged accident.

Ysabel, 17, was one of 24 student actors who were part of a demonstration aimed at discouraging teens from drinking and driving.

In Shattered Dreams, a program developed by the South Texas Injury Prevention and Research Center at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, students get to see firsthand what it is like to be at a fatal car crash. "It's been pretty cool," Ysabel said. "I know a lot of people who have been in car accidents before, so this really hit home for me."

Julie Fuentez, Ysabel's mother, was still in tears after Thursday's demonstration had ended.

"I don't ever want to see you like this," said Fuentez, clutching her daughter tightly.

Frank Naranjo, an inspector and investigator for the Victoria Fire Department, and Yolanda Ritchey, an assistant principal at Victoria West and former Austin Police Department officer, organized the two-day demonstration, which will end Friday with a memorial service at the high school.

The two organizers coordinated with Rosewood Funeral Chapel, Department of Public Safety troopers, the Victoria Police Department and Coby's Auto and Wrecker Service to construct a real-life wreck scene and funeral procession.

Chase Bennett, Victoria West senior and salutatorian, acted as the drunken driver responsible for the accident.

For his mother, Nancy Bennett, who was also a part of the staged crash, hearing her son's cries made the experience feel more real than she had anticipated.

"It's so surreal that it's real," Nancy Bennett said. "These kids need to understand that their lives can change in a split second if they're not careful."

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