Smashed SUV draws reactions from students, parent
What was once a 2001 GMC Yukon is now a mass of mangled metal on wheels, and on Friday and Saturday of last week, the hunk of smashed SUV was parked in a courtyard at DHS in an effort to "drive home" the dangerous effects of driving while intoxicated.
The display is a collaborative effort between the DHS chapter of Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD), the Darien Police and the Depot. It's not the first time SADD has placed a crashed car on the courtyard; but this piece of smashed steel is particularly meaningful to the school, according to SADD President Kenny Weiss.
"This car was in a drunk driving accident on Middlesex Road, by a 2007 DHS [graduate] who slammed into a poll," said Weiss, who is a senior at DHS this year.
Last academic year, the club displayed a car that had been involved in a wreck on the Merritt Parkway, but it didn't have the same effect on students as the Yukon from September's crash, said Sophie Doering, a DHS junior and the secretary of SADD.
"People knew him. And this is directly related to his drinking," she said.
"We're hoping kids see it, and see what can happen if you're not careful behind the wheel," Weiss said.
The driver's family donated the car to the cause in an effort to promote teen driver safety. After its removal from the sidewalk at DHS, the car will be broken down for scrap metal, said Janice Marzano, the program director at the Depot, who serves as an adviser for the student organization.
"We had gone through something that was very traumatic; we didn't want anyone else to go through it. If this could help one kid to prevent the foolish mistake of drinking and driving, then we feel it's been successful," said the father of the teenager who was driving the car when it struck a phone pole earlier this fall.
When he and his wife first saw the car after the accident, they had reactions similar to those of the DHS students.
"You wanted to get sick. It was shocking. It was more than just `Oh my God.' My wife and I and our son almost got ill," he said. "I think these kids should realize that the police and the rescue squads spent an hour and a half with the jaws of life to get him out. The impact of the telephone pole -- had it been 12 inches further back -- probably would have crushed him. He would have been killed."
As it is, the driver suffered back and leg injuries and a shattered femur.
"It's not just, `Oh, he broke his leg.' That leg is shattered. This is not a normal break that will be healed in one or two months," he said. His son was recently able to discard his wheelchair, and is using crutches to get around; he will have to learn to walk again.
"We experienced every parent's nightmare, to having a state trooper slamming on your door at 4:30 in the morning to tell me I better call the Darien Police because there's been an accident," he said.
"This is a glaring example, a real-life example, right next door to you, that if you think it can't happen to you, it can," he told the Darien News.
The car was set up outside the school during the evening of Thursday, Nov. 19, and was left on display through Saturday.
Before classes began on Friday, several freshmen walked by the vehicle, gaping at the green SUV as they examined the damage done by the crash's impact and by the 90-minute extraction emergency officials had conducted to release the 19-year-old driver from the vehicle during the early morning hours of Sept. 14.
"It's scary. You can tell ... the driver's seat is off the floor, and you just never think that would happen. It's kind of terrifying to see what happened," said Samantha Hampton, 14.
"It's pretty freaky that something like this could happen. It's, like, folded in half," said Marcus Igbal, also 14.
"I never thought something could happen like this. Reality hits you, when you see it. Many people don't know the reality of reality," said Shruthi Raghuraman, 14.
Even Weiss, who had spent the previous night setting up the installation, was still in awe of the sight on Friday morning.
"It gives me the willies," he said.
This is exactly the reaction the former owners of the SUV were hoping for.
"If this is what it takes for someone to wake up and say they shouldn't do that, I hope they read this and take it to heart," said the driver's father.