SKANEATELES | The morning of May 12 brought tragedy to the Skaneateles Central School District.

In the Austin Park Pavilion parking lot, a black sedan sat in tatters. The headlight was broken, the tires were missing hubcaps, and three of the four high school-aged students involved remained in the vehicle.

The fourth, the front seat passenger, lay outside of the car with his head resting on the pavement. His shoes were off, his legs were contorted into an uncomfortable position and his scratched-up face was pale and blotched with purple specks.

The young man's torso was covered with a torn white shirt with his torn abdomen exposed, displaying a lesion with a protruding intestine.

At first, the police car arrived and the officer greeted the wandering driver, with a black eye and bloodied shirt, who stared aimlessly before focusing on his ejected and unconscious friend.

The police officer pulled the confused student away as the Skaneateles Ambulance Volunteer Emergency Services ambulance and Skaneateles Volunteer Fire Department fire truck arrived on the scene.

As the police officer questioned the driver before administering the field sobriety test, one of the backseat passengers, a young woman, exited the vehicle in a panic. The fourth passenger, who remained almost motionless in the back seat, let out howls of anguish.

As the young woman was taken to the ambulance to check on her injuries, a screaming mother arrived at the scene. The police officer conducting the sobriety test restrained the woman. The passenger still lay motionless on the pavement.

The Mottville Fire Department arrived with its firetruck and equipment to get the student from the back seat. As this was taking place, the student at the ambulance was placed in a neck brace and secured to a backboard to be lifted into the ambulance.

The young man undergoing the sobriety test resisted arrest and was forced to the ground as the officer placed handcuffs around his wrists.

Two blankets were brought out. One was for the young man in the back seat, covering the face and body to protect him from shattered glass. The other was for the passenger outside of the vehicle, who was pronounced dead at the scene.

The woman who ran onto the scene earlier screamed for her son as the driver was placed into the back seat of the police car.

Volunteer firefighters shattered the side windows and cut out the front and rear windshields. They used hydraulic devices to break and cut through the car and allow the them to bend up the roof of the sedan.

The student was pulled out, placed on a backboard and taken into the ambulance. The deceased passenger, a senior in high school, was placed in a black bag before being carried off by a hearse.

Rather than an actual tragedy, the scene that unfolded was a mock DWI crash set up to teach high school juniors and seniors the dangers of driving under the influence of alcohol through a moving, almost-real presentation.

As the scenario played out, SAVES Executive Director Jeff VanBeveren took the Skaneateles students through the process of what happens at the scene of a crash involving a crime.

For more than a decade, the high school Students Against Destructive Decisions program has taken the initiative to set up the mock DWI crash scenario right before prom.

"These are things that normal people should not see," VanBeveren told the crowd of more than 200 students. "This happens on a daily basis in the United States."

The director applauded the tough work that SAVES and other volunteer men and women handle on a regular basis. He said crashes such as this one are the skeletons that the responders keep in their closets.

And, he said, it's the easiest way to go to jail for a high school student or any person.

To emphasize the severity of the scene, Onondaga County Assistant District Attorney Erica D'Orazio spoke to the young adults about the legal implications.

"You'll go to jail," D'Orazio said. "The bail, if there is one, will be set at $500,000 or even at a million."

And that cost, she said, is the least of the problems.

The ADA said the accused face a variety of charges that include underage drinking, driving while intoxicated, vehicular manslaughter and aggravated driving, to name a few.

The offense is a one-way ticket to jail, where the accused person will stay until and, if convicted, after the trial is completed. There is no guarantee of the inmate in his cell, who could be twice his age and convicted of murder or rape.

A student asked D'Orazio if a 15-, 16- or 17-year-old would be tried as an adult. Her response: "Absolutely."

The ADA said the process is long and arduous, and the worst part about the entire situation is realizing and trying to accept the truth of what happened and the pain the driver caused to his family and to the families of those involved in the crash.

VanBreveren also touched on distracted driving and how it's more than just texting. Any activity that takes one's eyes off the road is a distraction, he said, even eating and changing the radio. D'Orazio said texting a three-letter "lol" can cause a series of unfortunate events.

"In 11 years, we have not had an incident. We'd like that to continue," VanBeveren said.

That amount of time also measures the years that the mock DWI presentation has taken place, SADD Adviser Marcy Weed said, as well as the years since a fatal DWI crash killed a Skaneateles student in 2004 and shook up the community and the surrounding area.

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Skaneateles Journal reporter Christopher Malone can be reached at christopher.malone@lee.net or 282-2230. Follow him on Twitter @Skan_Malone.

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