Students get crash course on importance of safe celebration

11 prom promise brad owens with others

Brad Owens, left, provided a tragic testimonial at Sussex Central High School’s Prom Promise Program.

GEORGETOWN – Prom season is here.

Graduations are just around the corner.

It’s that time of the year for joy, happiness and celebration.

Unfortunately, celebration can sometimes lead to heartbreak and tragedy.

Sussex Central High School students got a crash course in the consequences of drinking and driving and driver distractions Tuesday – four days before Prom 2016.

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Delaware State Police Cpl. Kenny Argo shares information on local teen fatalities in motor vehicle crashes.

“I am not the one you want to see show up at the crash site or in the hospital,” said Cpl. Kenny Argo, a member of the Delaware State Police Collision Reconstruction Unit.

The CRU responds to fatal accidents and crashes with serious injury that could be fatal.

Sussex Central High School’s Prom Promise Program featured:

  • a Power Point with graphic photos of real-life fatal accident scenes in which Sussex County teens perished;
  • Emergency room trauma center photos;
  • presentations by Cpl. Argo and Diamond Hoke, a trauma/forensic nurse at Beebe Hospital; and
  • Brad Owens, a 2006 Cape Henlopen High School graduate whose younger sister Jordyn died in an alcohol-related crash in 2009.

“Motor vehicle crashes are the No. 1 cause of death among teens,” said Cpl. Argo. “Each year 5,000 teens ages 16 to 20 are killed in motor vehicle crashes.”

Mr. Owens’ sister died in a crash after leaving a house party in Rehoboth. The Jeep Cherokee she was driving overturned and she was ejected. Jordyn Owens was 18.

“My sister was an amazing person. She just made a mistake. And I live with my mistakes. Before she left I asked her how she was getting home. She told me she was driving and pulled out her keys. I did nothing,” said Mr. Owens. “The last thing I said to my sister is, ‘How are you getting home?’ I let my sister drink and drive without standing up and saying ‘no’ or ‘don’t.’”

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Mr. Owens’ sister was flown to Christiana Hospital. He drove his parents. Other family members were at the hospital.

“There was a nurse waiting for us. We followed her down a long hallway,” said Mr. Owens. “At the end of the hallway there was this preacher, or chaplain, whatever you call them at the hospital. He was holding a Bible. At that point I knew my sister didn’t make it.”

Mr. Owens said his worst memory of that horrible night is of “my mom screaming.”

“I re-live this every day,” he said. “I still cry all of the time. For what? A night of beer pong and shots of Captain Morgan …”

“My message is to not make the same mistakes,” Mr. Owens said. “There are other alternatives to drinking and driving. If it is going to happen, plan ahead. Think about the consequences of your choices. I know it is really hard to stand up to your friends sometimes. Stand up. Do the awkward thing. Do the right thing. Step out of your box. Look out for your friends.”

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Delaware State Police Det. Chad Harmon, School Resource Officer at Sussex Central High School, speaks at the school’s Prom Promise Program.

Det. Chad Harmon, Sussex Central’s School Resource Officer and a member of the Delaware State Police Victims Services, reminded the student body of the importance of the presenters’ messages. He also reminded students that the night before the Prom Promise assembly “two of your classmates were involved in a serious motor vehicle accident. These accidents do happen and they can happen. They can happen to anyone in this room including myself.”

Not all sequences that lead to tragic consequences are alcohol-related.

Excessive speed and failure to wear seatbelts dot the list.

“You’ve got to slow down,” said Cpl. Argo. “Leave cell phones in your pockets. Don’t text and drive.”

“Trying to change your music, chatting with the person next to you; it’s all distractions. And it only takes a split second,” said Ms. Hoke. “Prevention is the key.”

News Editor Glenn Rolfe can be reached at grolfe@newszap.com

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