Simulated blood and human tissue were strewn about a mock accident scene last week near Robstown High School to drive home the dangers of drinking and driving.
Four teens were purportedly killed and another teen was supposedly arrested and charged with their alcohol-related deaths after the mock crash on Bosquez Street, near the high school football stadium.
Several local agencies were involved in the simulated accident, including Nueces County Medical Examiner Ric Ortiz, who pronounced one of the accident victims dead at the scene. Organizers said a U.S. teenager dies in a drunk-driving accident every 15 minutes, on average.
The exercise began at about 9:30 a.m. Sept. 20 when Robstown High School students heard about the mock accident over the school's intercom and ventured outside to see the gruesome crash scene.
Robstown police, firefighters and EMS personnel were already on hand, administering mock IV's to the accident victims, all of whom are RHS students.
Emergency responders used the "Jaws of Life" to open one of the three accident vehicles donated by Hernandez Auto Service of Robstown.
"We worked the accident scene just like we normally would with extrication," said EMS director Rey Vargas.
The accident was authentically portrayed, with simulated blood and brain matter strewn about the crash site, and the body of a teen was picked up by Ramon Funeral Home Inc. of Robstown.
Another victim was flown by helicopter to Christus Spohn Memorial Hospital. A third accident victim was taken by ambulance to Driscoll Children's Hospital and the fourth victim was taken by ambulance to Corpus Christi Medical Center.
All four victims reportedly died from their injuries and Robstown police paid visits to their parents' homes or places of employment to notify them of the accident.
The alleged drunk driver, who reportedly did not suffer major injuries, was arrested by Robstown police. The 17-year-old suspect was charged with four counts of vehicular manslaughter and one count of driving under the influence, and arraigned before Judge Mary Barrera.
Barrera sentenced Rogelio Villarreal to 80 years in prison, 20 for each death, with the sentences to run consecutively. He was also fined for the DUI charge.
Villarreal donned a prisoner's uniform and spent about three hours in jail at the Robstown Police Department.
Every 15 minutes a heartbeat was played over the high school intercom and the Grim Reaper then went to a classroom to gather another victim. Seventeen students were claimed by the Grim Reaper, reiterating the frequency of teen drunk-driving fatalities.
The victims' faces were painted white and their eyes and mouth painted black, and they returned to their classes, but were not allowed to speak for the remainder of the day.
At the end of the day, the 17 dead students, including the four accident victims, formed a circle around one of the accident vehicles in the high school quadrangle, each of them holding a cross.
The 17 students spent the night at the school at an all-night retreat in the new gymnasium where several police, firefighters, EMS personnel and others spoke about the effects of drinking and driving. The students also watched films showing the gruesome affects of automobile crashes.
The parents of those 17 students also stayed the night at the school and learned about the legal consequences of allowing teenagers to drink.
An assembly of parents and students was held Friday at the high school, complete with a coffin.
A guest speaker, Velma Arellano, who lost her son in reality 12 years ago in a drunk-driving accident, spoke about losing a loved one.
Students walked by the open coffin in single file and saw an image of themselves on a mirror inside the coffin as the assembly ended.
"The reason why I tried so hard to bring this activity to Robstown is I know there is a need to get that message to our youth," said federal programs director Sylvia Benavides.
"It was a very powerful message," she added. "I don't think any other assembly or program delivers such a powerful message because this one really hits home. I think it made an impact not only on the students, but to many of the staff members and agencies that were there."