Sending a message

FORESTVILLE – An accident left one student dead, two injured and one in handcuffs. Luckily, it was a mock driving while intoxicated crash held at the Forestville Middle/High School and not a real crash.

The program, coordinated by Ron Hasson of Starflight and the Chautauqua County Sheriff’s Office STOP DWI program, was held for sophomores, juniors and seniors. Students saw a “program designed to be a clear reminder for each of you, as we enter our prom season, the realities of the dangers of impaired or unsafe driving,” Principal Patrick Moses said. Students saw National Honor Society members act out three different scenarios following a prom.

Seniors Emily Dillenburg and Emily Gilman were grabbing items at home for a sleepover before meeting up with friends at a local restaurant. A group was already at the restaurant waiting for friends while others were playing a drinking game at a party. Senior Adam Pleva and Junior Jacob Nosbisch were seen leaving the party to purchase more beer. The skit ended with another group reaching the restaurant and wondering where Dillenburg and Gilman were. They decided the two girls must have gotten stuck in a detour for an accident.

Students were ushered outside to see the crash scene – a head-on collision between a car and a Jeep on Route 39 – staged in the back parking lot. Forestville Fire Department and Chautauqua County Sheriff’s Office responded where Dillenburg and Gilman, who were in the car, were injured; Gilman was transported by Starflight and Dillenburg, the driver, was pronounced dead. Pleva, the other driver, was arrested for DWI. Nosbisch, his passenger, was extricated from the vehicle by the jaws of life and taken to the hospital. Dillenburg, who was pronounced dead by Coroner Warren Riles, was placed in a body bag and then into the back of a hearse. Students witnessed Pleva being arraigned by Hanover Town Justice Walter Klyczek. He was charged with DWI, speed not reasonable and prudent, unlawful possession of marijuana, failure to keep right and second-degree vehicular manslaughter. The maximum sentence is seven years in prison, or a $5,000 fine, but could be both in addition to five years probation. Bail was set at $10,000 cash or $20,000 property.

Mark Woolley of Riles and Woolley Funeral Home contacted Dillenburg’s family to make arrangements. He suggested the family bring clothing with “long sleeves and have a high collar” due to injuries sustained. A service was held for Dillenburg; a casket with her softball jersey and glove laid on top was on the auditorium stage. Teacher Todd Langworthy has known Dillenburg her entire life and spoke of how those who knew her said “she was one of the happiest people that you ever met.” A recorded message from Dillenburg said she will never get the chance to go to college or get married, now that a drunk driver took her life.

“I’ve always been daddy’s little girl, now I’m daddy’s little angel. Thank you for always protecting me … now I have the chance to protect you,” Dillenburg said.

Sheriff Deputies Josh Ostrander and Thomas Delcamp spoke with the students about the fines and fees associated with a DWI charge and zero tolerance in the state. The fines and fees associated could cost several thousands of dollars, between bail, fees and fines, losing your license and lawyer fees. New York state has zero tolerance for anyone under 21; meaning no alcohol can be found in someone’s system. Delcamp said impaired driving by alcohol, prescription drugs or other narcotics will be found by a blood or urine sample. Ostrander said any amount of drugs will impair someone’s judgment.

More than one in four alcohol-related crashes are attributed to high-school-aged individuals. Many accidents related to alcohol involve missing curves or driver distraction, Delcamp said. Adding impairment by drugs or alcohol is increasing the risk of an accident. Ostrander said just one person in a car needs to step up and be a designated driver to prevent impaired driving crashes.

“Even in their slightest usage (drugs) start to diminish your ability to do divided attention tasks,” Ostrander said.

Riles recounted his graduation night more than 50 years ago to students. Riles, who was working for a funeral director, wanted to go out with his friends to a party but his father had said no. Riles ended up at an accident to see his friend’s vehicle had been involved in a train accident. Riles said the accident put a “dark cloud” on his class reunions for a long time.

Moses was proud of the students’ reactions to the program, saying they took a lot away. Dillenburg is highly involved in school, is class president and is known by many, making it more personal. Many students had tears in their eyes by the end.

“Obviously the tighter (the class) … will have more of a personal impact, but how students interact with the program is the most important thing,” he said.

Moses was thankful to everyone who was a part of the program, which was held prior to Forestville’s prom being held Saturday.

“All of this wouldn’t be possible without everybody who contributed and volunteered to make the day and the program really what it is. I’m just so thankful for everybody’s time and efforts, both inside of the district and outside as well.”

Others who helped with the program were Norm’s Garage, which donated and towed the vehicles; Dave Rowley of WDOE, who recorded a newscast; Triple M Sound, which helped with music and effects, and students Emily Burgoes, who sang while Fabi Logan played piano.

Comments on this article may be sent to smcdonnell@observertoday.com.