Learning to make smart decisions
TOWANDA - Friday morning, the Towanda High students in grades 10 through 12 filed out of their school to find a scene in the building's east parking lot that was meant to shock them.
It was a fatal mock accident.
Lying "dead" in a pool of blood in front of a Eagle Talon coupe with severe front-end damage was their fellow high school student, Joey Daniello.
A walking, "injured" female high school student was screaming to "critically injured" Towanda High student Rachael Dawsey, who was a front-seat passenger in a station wagon that the Eagle Talon had collided with: "Rachael, get out (of the vehicle)! Oh my God! Someone help! We need you to get out!"
The hundreds of students who were watching saw Towanda Police Officer Josh Lake and ambulances arrive on scene, as well as Towanda firefighters, who used power tools to extricate two critically injured students from the vehicles.
In an interview, Towanda High School Principal Dennis Peachey said he hoped that the mock accident would help students make good decisions at the school's upcoming prom and graduation celebrations, as well as at other times of the year.
Towanda High School "has been fairly fortunate" in the past few years, in terms of its students not getting involved in serious motor vehicle accidents, while some other local school districts have gone through "troubling situations" when their students got involved in bad motor vehicle accidents, he said.
"But it (a bad motor vehicle accident) could happen at any time, so we're trying to do all we can" to prevent fatal and other serious motor vehicle accidents, he said.
In an assembly that took place immediately prior to the mock accident, Peachey told the high school students that when he was growing up, the main driving problem that students were warned about in school assemblies was driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
Now students face the additional issue of distracted driving caused by things like texting or looking up phone numbers on cell phones, he said.
"It (an accident resulting from distracted driving) can happen in a split second," Peachey said.
After the mock accident, the students attended another assembly where they learned about the potential consequences of DUI-related motor vehicle accidents.
They heard Craig Dawsey, father of Rachael Dawsey, who had suffered fatal injuries in the mock accident, deliver her eulogy.
During his talk, Craig Dawsey, who is a teacher in the Towanda School District, encouraged the students to "stop repeating that stupid mantra: 'It will never happen to me.'"
"Stop being so damn selfish. Your actions do affect people, especially the people who care for you," Craig Dawsey said.
They heard Towanda High School student Morgan Dreisch deliver a eulogy for her boyfriend, Joey Daniello. "He was a good person with a great big heart, which he would share with everyone, even strangers," she said.
And the students witnessed a mock court proceeding for Kyle Blasik, the 18-year-old Towanda High School student who was the at-fault driver in the accident.
During the proceeding, Blasik admitted that he had "taken" a drug called ecstacy before the crash, and that the accident occurred when he ran a stop sign on Second Street in Towanda.
Because he had caused an accident that caused the deaths of two people, Blasik was charged with two second-degree felony counts of homicide by vehicle while driving while under the influence of a controlled substance, said Jeffrey A. Smith, a recently retired Bradford County Court judge who presided over the mock court proceeding.
During the proceeding, Blasik pleaded guilty to both homicide by vehicle counts, and as a result, was told that he faced a maximum sentence of 20 years in jail and a $50,000 fine.
Smith also told Blasik that he would be required to serve a mandatory minimum sentence of three years in prison for each homicide by vehicle count.
Because the mandatory minimum prison sentences would have to be served consecutively, Blasik faced a mandatory minimum sentence of six years in jail, Smith said.
James Loewenstein can be reached at (570) 265-1633; or email: email@example.com.