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Mock crash helps NKHS students drive home a lesson

Students at North Kitsap High School act out a mock drunk driving collision Friday for the Junior and Senior students. The event is a bi-annual awareness event for highlighting the dangers of driving under the influence. - Brad Camp/Staff Photo
Students at North Kitsap High School act out a mock drunk driving collision Friday for the Junior and Senior students. The event is a bi-annual awareness event for highlighting the dangers of driving under the influence.
— image credit: Brad Camp/Staff Photo

POULSBO - North Kitsap High School senior Doug Vogel had the chance to experience something few people other than Tom Sawyer have been able to: witness his own funeral.

To prevent incidents related to drug and alcohol abuse, NKHS kicked off its annual Drug Awareness Week Friday with a mock car crash and memorial service for Vogel, the "deceased" passenger in the staged collision.

"It was definitely surreal," Vogel said after his funeral. "The impact I saw it have on people was pretty amazing."

The elaborate production was organized and sponsored by the student Leaders in North Kitsap (LINK) club, school administrators, the Poulsbo Police and Fire departments, Washington State Patrol, Kitsap County Sheriff's Office, Mothers Against Drunk Driving and Airlift Northwest. The crash took place Friday morning before a crowd of nearly 600 juniors and seniors eight days away from prom. It was a change from past mock crashes, which were set up on the track at the North Kitsap Stadium. To make the scene more realistic, while also preserving the new stadium turf, organizers closed off part of Caldart Street and held the performance in the middle of the road.

Once the stage was set, two wrecked sedans were unveiled, filled with bloodied, frantic prom-goers. Medics and law enforcement officers soon arrived, and students watched as firefighters used the Jaws of Life to remove the entire top half of Vogel's vehicle, where he sat motionless in the passenger seat. Soon the students' attention was drawn skyward as an Airlift Northwest helicopter touched down on the softball field and Vogel was stabilized for transport to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle.

Nora Sizemore of MADD spoke to the crowd afterward about the experience of losing her own son, Kyle, a former NK student, in a drunken driving accident in 2005. She urged students to be wise and considerate of others in their decisions.

"I just hope it makes a difference," Sizemore said after her speech. "For those that do get it, that's a life saved. A family saved."

Sizemore recognized not everyone watching would be affected by the display. Some students commented during the helicopter arrival that the spectacle seemed like a waste of money. The associated student body at NKHS raises between $1,000 and $1,500 every two years for the performance, while police, fire and other agencies donate their own resources.

Other students, though, were moved by the accident and ensuing funeral.

"It was emotionally provoking," said junior Asha Davis, who admitted she was fighting back tears when Vogel's parents spoke at the memorial.

"I felt like it was actually happening," said senior Austin Campbell. "It hits home."

Throughout the week, student groups at NKHS will host a Healthy Choice Day, perform anti-tobacco skits and encourage classmates to sign a petition promising they will be drug- and alcohol-free on prom night, which is Saturday. Counselors are urging all students to find safe, smart ways to celebrate.

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