WESTPORT – The grisly scene was already set in the parking lot when the students of South Decatur High School (SDHS) began filing out to witness the annual Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) demonstration.
With prom tonight, the end of the school day Friday seemed a perfect time to drive home the dangers of drinking and driving in the most visual way possible. When everyone was in place to watch, the gruesome play began with two students happening upon the crash and rushing to see if their friends were okay. The girls were unable to wake the victims of the crash and called 911 for help.
SDHS teacher Matt Diehl narrated the action, telling the audience how 18 year old Jared Wager drove drunk after leaving a party with three friends and caused a head on collision with another car containing two sober students on their way to go shopping.
Jared remained conscious after the crash, exiting the vehicle to stumble around the parking lot in a daze until police arrived. Jared’s passenger, Byron Haley, sustained multiple severe injuries in the accident and by the time police were called, he was already moments from death. Jared’s two back seat passengers, Taylor Vannatta and Haliegh Haining, also sustained significant injuries.
The occupants of the other car, driver Elizabeth Hedger and passenger Clarissa Baltus, were sober and wearing their seatbelts. Their only crime: being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Clarissa was trapped in the vehicle, unable to escape.
By the time emergency personnel made it to the accident scene, Byron had passed away. Taylor sustained severe injuries and EMS workers immediately began administering CPR, in the hopes of keeping her alive until the Lifeline helicopter arrived.
SDHS teacher Cathy Tichenor gave a chillingly realistic performance as Byron’s grief-stricken mother, with her anguished screams echoing across the windy parking lot, carrying even over the wail of sirens and the frenzied calls of emergency workers.