County students see dramatic portrayal of prom night fatalities

Published 5:00 pm Wednesday, April 17, 2024

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By Buzz Trexler

Star Correspondent

It’s prom night in Carter County and a car filled with five teenagers roars out of the event venue’s parking lot. The group is headed for a night of drinking and celebrating. Also on the road, a teenager and her mother.

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The quiet spring night is soon broken by the sound of metal crashing as the two cars collide, sending one young woman through the windshield.

The call goes out to Carter County 911.

Carter County Rescue Squad personnel arrive on the scene. Also arriving are the Roan Mountain Volunteer Fire Department, Carter County Sheriff’s Office, and Hampton-Valley Forge Fire Department.

A young girl who is thrown through the windshield dies at the scene, as does another young person.

Seven casualties in all: “Two people killed, five injured in prom night crash,” an imaginary headline reads.

A crowd of 100 students watch Wednesday morning at Hampton High School as the dramatic scene plays out before them on the football field. Early on, there are small pockets of laughter and the occasional clapping of hands; at some point, the air is heavy and filled with the sound of a mother screaming for her child and the whirring and clacking of the emergency personnel’s extraction equipment.

This is “Prom Promise,” a national initiative first organized by Nationwide Insurance in 1990. This marks the second year that Carter County emergency service agencies and community partners have teamed up to bring awareness of the dangers of driving under the influence.

Agencies taking part in this year’s event included the Carter County Rescue Squad, Carter County Sheriff’s Office, the county’s volunteer fire departments, Highlands Emergency Air Rescue and Transport (formerly Wings Air Rescue), the Carter County School System, and Carter County Drug Prevention Coalition.

Nancy Garrison, deputy director of Carter County Rescue Squad, said her greatest hope is students at the event will see the consequences of driving under the influence, “after prom night, or any night.”

“It could happen at any time,” Garrison said.

Seven students and a Carter County Rescue Squad employee played roles in the drama. Jeff Francisco, IT administrator for the rescue squad, narrated the story behind the event.

Sarah Sumpter, of Carter County Drug Prevention, told the students, “Crashes like this are completely preventable.” April through June are statistically heavy months for car crashes, she said, and those are the months when proms and graduation events are held.

“So, if you find yourself somewhere drunk, or whatever, and you can’t get home – or please don’t drink and drive – call us. We will come get you,” Sumpter said.

Carter County Drug Prevention was among the organizations setting up tables with information pamphlets and other items available for students to take home. Also on hand were representatives of Carter County Health Department, Ballad Health Trauma Network, and Children’s Resource Center of Niswonger Network.