NORWICH – On the eve of prom season, Students Against Destructive Decisions staged a mock crash with local emergency services at the Norwich High School Monday afternoon demonstrating the potential consequences of impaired driving.
The event is intentionally held before prom and graduation to generate a memorable experience that will hopefully increase awareness about driving while using medication, drugs or alcohol.
“We aim to show a real-life example of the dangers of impaired driving and the reality of the impact it can have. One decision can have many dangerous consequences,” said S.A.D.D. advisor Kelly Collins-Colosi.
The mock crash has been taking place at Norwich High School since early 2000.
The demonstration reenacts the scene of a fatal crash following a party, working with the Norwich Police Department, directed by Officer Brandon Clarke; the Norwich Fire Department and Fire Chief Jan Papelino; and the LifeNet of New York Rescue Helicopter.
The students actors were: Torin Lawrence, Ashley Coombs, Jake Llewellyn, Evan Sylstra, Madelyn (Maddy) Morris, Cameron VanHouten, Margaret Dougher and MacKenzie Hess.
Nearly all junior and senior students at Norwich, approximately 220 students, watched the mock crash unfold.
“We really work to promote awareness in the school community about the effects or impaired driving from the use of alcohol, prescription medication and other substances. If this event even impacts just one student and makes one student think twice about getting behind the wheel of a car and driving or getting in the car with someone who is impaired, then we have made a difference,” said Collins-Colosi.
Art imitating life and death
It's not hard to imagine what a mock headline might read: Parents express grief as student driver is charged in DWI homicides.
Here is a real Evening Sun headline from March 23, 2010: Driver in fatal teen crash gets 3-9 years.
The story reads: At the time of an accident, which claimed the life of a Gilbertsville-Mt. Upton High School student and amputated the leg of another, the 17-year-old who was driving on a learner’s permit said he was so intoxicated he couldn’t recall the moment of collision.
Troopers also said none of the teens were wearing seat belts and all of the occupants were ejected from the vehicle as it rolled down the road.
The judge took more than ten minutes to review the defendant's rights in court before accepting the guilty plea.
“I was at a party and I got drunk I guess, and when I left I was driving, I guess,” he told the judge.
Unrelated to that case, S.A.D.D. advisor Kelly Collins-Colosi recalled her sister following Monday's mock crash event.
“My sister, Emily Collins, and her two best friends were killed by a drunk driver at Colgate University on November 11, 2000. It is a loss that I hope to be able to prevent any of my students and their families from ever having to experience,” she said.
Not a happy story
In August of 2019 Former Evening Sun Reporter Zachary Meseck wrote about a Norwich Driver’s Education course offered through the Norwich High School:
At the class Kelly Collins-Colosi shared the story of a drunk driving accident that claimed four lives, including her sister’s, 21 years ago, and why there is no excuse for drunk driving.
“It’s not a happy story to tell, but I want you to know that drinking and driving has real consequences, don’t let a choice to drink and drive become the cause of someone else’s death,” she warned.
According to Collins-Colosi, her sister Emily died approximately 21 years ago on Nov. 11, 2000.
Collins-Colosi said her sister was one of three young women from Norwich that were killed after accepting a ride from a college student who shortly after struck a tree near Colgate University.
She said Katie Almeter, Emily Collins, Rachel Nargiso, and Kevin King died due to the crash.
The driver Robert Koester survived, and Collins-Colosi said police discovered Koester had a blood alcohol content more than double the legal limit at the time of the accident. She said Koester crashed into a tree just a quarter-mile up the road after he picked them up.
“To put things in perspective for you, that’s like a drive from (The Norwich High School) to Midland Drive,” said Collins-Colosi. “Four people were killed in less than 30 seconds.”
She said at the time it was common practice for college students to get picked up at the bottom of the steep hill leading to the Colgate campus, so her sister likely didn’t think anything of Koester offering them a ride. She added that there were multiple people already in the vehicle, and that King was Koester’s best friend.
“Koester was removed from Colgate, and then he was charged and arrested,” said Collins-Colosi. “He was sentenced to one and a third to four years in jail, but only served two and a half.”
“I do believe he has to live with the decisions he made every day... It’s hell, to lose someone because of choices that they made.”
She said Koester made three choices that night that lead to the death of her sister, and listed them out for the driver’s education class.
She said the choices were listed as:
1. Am I going to go out or am I going to stay home?
2. Am I going to drink, or will I not?
3. Am I going to get into a car and drive?
“He didn’t have to drink and drive, and none of you have to either,” she added. “Don’t do it, if you need a ride call someone, call me, that’s one thing that Emily, Katie, and Rachel could have done differently.”