PORTLAND, Maine — A mock car crash in front of Portland High School Wednesday morning took on extra significance after news spread that the teen driver in a fatal January crash is facing manslaughter and other charges.
Police arrested Kristina Lowe, 19, of Oxford on Tuesday for her role in a West Paris accident in which two of her friends died. Lowe allegedly had been drinking before taking the wheel and was distracted by text messages while driving at the time of the crash.
“I know she’s facing up to 95 years in jail,” Portland School Resource Officer Coreena Behnke, adviser to the high school’s Students Against Destructive Decisions group, which organized Wednesday’s simulation, said. “Every time students hear about someone getting hurt in an accident or killed in an accident, it adds to the message.”
In the vivid Wednesday morning demonstration, which closed a stretch of Cumberland Avenue for just more than an hour, senior Kara Grant played the role of the impaired driver while classmate Anthony Bowden acted as her passenger, who was shown as killed in the staged two-vehicle crash.
As would be the case in a real accident, police, firefighters and even a funeral hearse arrived on the scene. Bowden’s real-life mother, Susan, stepped in to play the grieving parent informed of the tragedy by Bahnke. Rescuers used the Jaws of Life to cut the roof from Grant’s vehicle and extricate Bowden, who laid unmoving under a white blanket.
“Seeing Tony get zipped up in that body bag hit home for people,” said SADD organizer and Portland High School senior Sammi Walker after the event.
Grant was led away from the scene in handcuffs by police after taking a mock sobriety test.
“The person driving that car is going to jail,” Kimberly Wike, the school’s assistant principal, told a crowd of students assembled on the front steps to watch the simulation. “She’s not going off to college. She’s not going to have a family. She’s going to live the rest of her life with the guilt of knowing she killed one of her friends. Think of that every Friday or Saturday night when you’re out with friends or having a beer.”
Michaela Walker, a Portland freshman who watched the demonstration, told the BDN the scene “really hit hard.”
“We don’t see a lot, but we know what can happen,” she said. “This makes it seem real.”
Her cousin, Westbrook High School sophomore Angela Beattie, also was on hand.
“I thought it was really scary and sad,” Beattie said. “I wouldn’t want this to happen to any of my friends.”