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Make believe mayhem

Line your car up at the end of a football field. Close your eyes. Rev the engine and release the brake while looking down into your lap. It will take 2.3 minutes at highway speed to reach the opposite goal line. That is the average time it takes to send a text.

The documented fact was shared in a mock car crash presented at Merrimack High School on May 22 in a 15th annual event designed to remind graduating seniors of the consequences of drinking and driving, or texting, or smoking marijuana, or driving under the influence of other drugs, or while distracted.

Members of Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) played crash victims in two cars mangled in a head-on collision. The texting driver was hauled away in handcuffs to face a felony charge of 15 years in prison and $4,000 in fines.

Event founders Jim Bailey, of Bailey’s Towing & Autobody, and State Farm Insurance Agent Dan Bantham were hosts, along with Merrimack Police Captain Michael Dudash, who noted that drunk driving incidents have been substantially augmented by deaths and injuries from texting and drugging.

“If you drink and drive you’re seven times more likely to have an accident,” Bantham said. “If you text and drive, you’re 23 times more likely to have a crash.”

Participants Mark Rivet, Andrew Stern and Rich Stopyra, of Rivet Funeral Home & Crematorium, transported in a hearse a “dead” student covered with a white sheet. A team from Merrimack Fire and Rescue grappled with power tools to extricate survivors.

Broken glass haloed Matt Giambartolomei, whose “ejected” upper body was splayed across one car’s hood. Fake blood and wounds edged in purple had been applied to the reenactors by makeup artists Sydney Campbell and Silke Langer, of Fright Kingdom in Nashua.

“I came up with the idea for this event around 15 years ago,” Bailey added. “We focused on drunk driving but now it’s texting and drugging that maybe are more prevalent.”

Reenactor Hali Desmarais, SADD president, called the mock crash a vivid lesson about what can happen in a moment that changes lives forever. Other reenactors included Matthew Giambartolomei; Garrett Murray; Robert DeFelice; Casey Moir; and Maddie Kayser. Bailey’s towing technicians Phil Mahoney and Robert Ketchie were thanked for helping to prepare the vehicles for the demonstration.

“This is a real-life example of what can happen,” Desmarais said. “This shows we’re not invincible.”

Tim Chandonnet, of Merrimack, played the “distraught father” whose real-life son, Garrett Murray, was pronounced “deceased” at the scene. The father wailed and was restrained from running to the corpse, his son, covered with a white sheet.

“One poor decision – you can’t take it back,” said Chandonnet. “It changes everything.”

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