Camdenton docudrama teaches real-life consequences of drinking and driving
It started out as a perfect day. Clear, sunny skies with talk of prom in the air. Camdenton high students were dressed to impress. Girls were donning dresses, extra make-up and fancier hair than usual. Guys sported their prom duds including ties, dress shirts and pants.
The perfect day ended abruptly taking the life of one student.
Students watched on as classmates portrayed a tragic scene. Two cars collided. One was driven by a drunk student while the other was full of innocent students, some wearing their seat belts and others not.
Camdenton High School hosts a docudrama every two years for juniors and seniors the week before prom and close to graduation.
Area law enforcement agencies including Camdenton City Police Department, Missouri Highway Patrol, Mid County Fire Protection District, Camdenton Fire Department, Mercy Ambulance and Camden County Coroner all pitched in with the efforts.
For Camdenton Police Chief Laura Wright, the docudrama is all about teaching students to make good choices.
"Everyday we all make choices. With each choice comes a consequence," Wright said.
She hopes watching the scene will make students think twice before driving drunk or getting into a car with a drunk driver. Wright added that she hopes her department never has to work a scene like the one portrayed in the docudrama.
In the docudrama, a faux car crash simulates two cars full of students that hit head on. The driver of one car was driven by the drunk driver played by Brandon Sullens. When law enforcement arrived on the scene, he was taken out of the vehicle delirious and intoxicated. The police officer on scene conducted a sobriety test. After failing the test, he was handcuffed and put in a patrol car.
Ambulance and fire departments arrived on the scene what seemed like hours later. By then, the students that could move were out and running around frantically. Other friends and family members had arrived, as well.
The incident had caused senior homecoming queen Abi Williams to be thrown from the driver's seat of the car that was hit head on. Courtney Loge, long-time friend and teammate of Williams, was in the other vehicle. She received some cuts and bruises but she was alert and able to get out of the vehicle.
As soon as Loge noticed that Williams was on the hood of the other vehicle she immediately ran to her side, urging her to wake up. Williams was still.
"I never want to do that ever in my life. It was the scariest thing," Loge said.
Tom Williams, Abi Williams' father, arrived in panic mode. He immediately ran to hear, yelling and screaming wanting nothing else than for his daughter to wake up. His pain turned to fear and then to anger. Why weren't the EMT's helping his daughter? Why would a fellow student and friend do this to Abi? He couldn't get answers.
"It's hard to watch because you know and I knew. It didn't make it better. It didn't make me not want to take it away. It didn't make me want to find a way to fix it," Tom said. "It ticked me off that no one wanted to help her and they didn't want to tell me and I know why they didn't want to tell me. They didn't want me to know. It was rough."
Students were dragged out of the vehicles, placed on gurneys and wheeled into the ambulance.
The Camden County Coroner arrived, surveyed the scene and took Abi Williams' body away.
The whole time, Sullens sat in a police car watching the horrific scene enfold. From time to time, angry bystanders and even Tom Williams made their way over to the patrol car and told Sullens what they thought of his behavior.
"I was mad and at the end I started to feel very guilty for the way I acted," Tom said. "I felt awful for the kids that were involved because it occurred to me that this is something that doesn't go away. Ever. And how would that change the course of Brandon's life in a huge way. At the end, I knelt on the pavement and I was exhausted."
The hectic scene came to a halt and the students were asked to file into the auditorium where phase two of the docudrama would begin.
The students involved in the docudrama were able to calm down and think about how the scenario impacted each of them personally.
For Abi Williams, it made her think about how she would want to spend her last day alive.
"It was just really hard. I knew I was going to do this today and just thinking when I woke up this morning, 'What do I want to do today as my last day?' I texted all my family members and said, 'Before I die today, I just wanted to let you know that I love you.' Of course he didn't think that was funny," she said of her dad standing next to her. "I was just sad. I was just going through the day looking at all of you guys [student body] thinking, 'Man, I love these people. I do not want to leave. I don't want to fake die.' That was probably the hardest part for me."
Abi Williams also felt like the situation was slightly unfair since no one in her vehicle had been drinking alcohol.
"It really felt like it wasn't fair because I wasn't drinking, I guess I didn't have my seatbelt on but I feel like my life ended really abruptly and it shouldn't have," she said. "I know that Brandon was drinking and driving but I don't want him to have that guilt for the rest of his life either. That's really hard to live the rest of your life thinking you killed someone and had to watch it all happen."
Abi Williams may not have been drinking alcohol but she did make a decision to not wear her seatbelt that caused her to be ejected from the vehicle. That decision not only caused her faux death but brought pain and sadness to her family and friends.
"That was probably the worst part — listening to my dad freak out. I would never want to do that to my family or my friends," she said. "I do not normally wear my seatbelt, but I will now forever wear my seat-belt and make everyone else wear a seat-belt."
Students were reminded that 824 deaths occurred on Missouri roadways last year. 134 of those deaths were of individuals the same age of the high school students.
Starting in 2013, Camdenton and School of the Osage alternate years that they host docudramas. School of the Osage will host their docudrama next year.