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Mark Murphy of Stewart-Murphy Funeral Home, right (the incoming Callicoon FD chief), gets ready to put Catherine Peters’ body in his hearse with the help of firefighters Anthony Leone of Lake Huntington, Ed Puerschner of Jeffersonville, left, and Phil Grisafe of Lake Huntington (partially hidden).

Prom Night crash reenactment:
Consequences of a bad decision

By Dan Hust
LAKE HUNTINGTON — April 23, 2010 — Sullivan West put its best student actors to good use on Tuesday, giving a facsimile of reality with a gripping reenactment of a drunk driving fatal car crash on Prom Night.
The school will hold its Junior Prom tomorrow night at the Villa Roma, and the SADD Chapter and school officials wanted to drive home the message of being safe, and not making bad decisions.
Hundreds of juniors and seniors were led out to the grassy area separating the visitors’ parking lot from the bus circle, where the scene took place.
NYS Trooper Bill Maloney, who has directed the school’s plays, scripted the scenario in conjunction with area emergency services.
While the actors took up their positions in and around the two cars, which stood nose-to-nose in a head-on pose, the sounds and sights of a post-accident process took place.
The siren actually went off at the nearby Lake Huntington Firehouse, and D.J. Jim’s sound system captured the high-pitched emergency alert and consequent chatter emanating from the County’s E-911 Center.
Soon the deafening sounds of sirens from approaching State Police cars and emergency apparatus cut the air as they came to a stop in the bus circle.
Firefighters from Lake Huntington, Jeffersonville, Hortonville and Callicoon, along with the volunteers from the Cochecton Ambulance Squad, were soon doing the tasks they’ve done many times at real accident scenes.
The School Resource Officer, Trooper Greg Brewer attended to critically injured Drew Billard, who was in the car “driven” by Hortonville firefighter Dan Spagnoli.
Richard “R.J.” Smith, “driving” the “Prom Car,” was tested for alcohol by Trooper Troy Parucki. His front seat passenger, Catherine Peters, lay dead on the hood of his car, having gone through the windshield.
In the back seat, Lucas Bauer and Hannah Rettoun were critically injured and had to be extracted using the “Jaws of Life” (the car had its top pre-cut for safety reasons and to spare time).
Both Bauer and Rettoun made convincing screams of pain as they were attended to and put on stretchers, and Rettoun cried out in anguish when she saw Peters’ body covered up, waiting for the hearse.
When the reenactment was over, the students went inside the auditorium to hear District Attorney Jim Farrell explain the legal and emotional ramifications of making bad decisions.
“Driving, on a daily basis, is the most dangerous thing we can do – sober,” Farrell emphasized.
The charge of aggravated vehicular homicide, he said, carried a sentence of 25 years.
If he suspected someone involved in a fatal accident (or where injuries are caused) of being under the influence, Farrell sternly told his listeners, “I’m not waiting until you speak to your lawyer. I’m going to get a search warrant and stick a needle in your arm and draw your blood.
“I’m going to prove you guilty beyond a reasonable doubt… and hold you responsible,” Farrell added.
Why was Farrell so passionate about the subject?
“Because, I’ve looked into the eyes of parents when they’ve suffered the loss of a child… I’ve looked into the eyes of a mother who can’t get up in the morning because she’s lost a son or daughter to a drunk driver,” he said.
Farrell emphasized that every police officer and emergency worker who had taken part in the reenactment “did so because they care about you, and I care too; that’s why I’m here. If I can get through to one individual in this auditorium, I can spare one family some heartbreak.”
Notes: In addition to the departments and services already mentioned, Lake Huntington Fire Chief Jason Kraack thanked Joe Herbert of Dick’s Auto for supplying the two cars and towing them to and away from the school.

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