Drunk-driving accident kills three, critically injures one The events described in this article are ﬁctional and used for dramatic effect. The Every Fifteen Minutes Program recently visited Agoura High School, and this article reports on the shockingly realistic portrayal of the consequences of drunk and distracted driving as if it really happened. The tragic accident depicted in our newspaper did not actually occur, as the description is used merely for educational purposes. Charger Editors, juniors Katie Persons and Lior Ayalon, spent two long and intensive days following the participants and reporting the event. by Katie Persons Online Editor On April 6, a fatal car accident occurred just off the Agoura High School campus. Three people were killed in the drunkdriving accident and one was critically injured. AHS senior Brett Greenstein was later charged with manslaughter after it was discovered he had been drinking. Seven people were involved in the 1:11 pm accident, including six AHS students and one teacher. As AHS senior Genesse Kayton drove along Driver Ave. towards Argos Street with two passengers, senior Kelly Klezek and junior Alexis Weiss, Greenstein drove in the opposite direction, towards Easterly Road, with passengers Robin Lifshitz and Tatiana Setty, both AHS seniors. As the two cars neared each other, Greenstein, who was under the inﬂuence of alcohol, swerved into the other lane, hitting Kayton’s car. The crash also struck and killed a pedestrian,
Greenstein, Lifshitz, and Setty all had been drinking prior to the accident. Three police cars and one police motorcycle arrived at the crash site, followed by one ambulance and two ﬁretrucks. A total of six sheriffs, ten ﬁremen, and four paramedics tended to the scene. Ofﬁcers surveyed the crash as paramedics and ﬁremen began to pull the students from the cars. Greenstein, Kayton, and Setty were able to walk away from the crash with minor injuries. At 1:19 pm, both Lifshitz and Weiss were pronounced dead. They are both
survived by their families who were later contacted by California Highway Patrol ofﬁcers. Klezek and Pickett were rushed by ambulance to the Los Robles Hospital & Medical Center, where Pickett was pronounced dead. Pickett is survived by his wife and three children. Klezek, who had been an avid runner and was hoping to become a physical therapist, will now be handicapped with a wheelchair and faces years of physical therapy. photo by Mariah Doran As paramedics and ﬁremen removed the students and AHS teacher Gerald Pickett, who had teacher from the crash site to tend to their been crossing the street. Lifshitz, who injuries, ofﬁcers surveyed the scene, was riding in the front passenger seat of measuring the location and apparent Greenstein’s car, died immediately upon state of each car. Ofﬁcers also held the impact of the accident. Weiss, riding behind Greenstein, Kayton, and Setty in the backseat of Kayton’s car, also died for questioning. Once it was apparent in the accident, while fellow passenger that the members of Greenstein’s car had Klezek was rushed to the hospital with been drinking, Greenstein underwent a severe injuries. Police reports stated that sobriety test at approximately 1:27 pm.
Greenstein was told to close his eyes and open them once he believed thirty seconds was over, hold up each leg one at a time and count to thirty seconds, and was ﬁnally asked to close his eyes and try to touch his nose. Once an anguished Greenstein completed a breathalyzer test, he was handcuffed and placed in the backseat of a police car as the remnants of the crash still lay around him. Shortly after, the coroner arrived at the scene to take Weiss and Lifshitz away. According to Greenstein, he had had “about ten drinks” within the course of
photo by Ryan Moorman
an hour before driving Lifshitz and Setty, each of which had also been drinking, back to school. The three were having lunch at a friend’s house off campus where there were other kids drinking as well. Kayton, Klezek, and Weiss were leaving the school campus, and had not been drinking. Greenstein was charged for killing three people in this drunk-driving incident, standing trial a short while after the crash occurred. Those who fortunately survived the crash were called to testify against Greenstein in court. Setty said that, given the opportunity, she would “do anything to take that day back” and that she regrets it wholeheartedly. Kayton, who had been in the other car but still knew Greenstein, also gave a statement, along with Lifshitz’s parents, Klezek, and a reading of a letter of recommendation that Pickett had recently written for Greenstein touting his ﬁne character.
In 2009, the National Highway Trafﬁc Safety Administration cited that of the 33,808 fatal car accidents in the U.S., 10,839 deaths were related to alcohol-impaired driving crashes. Additionally, 5,474 people were killed in the U.S. by distracted drivers, and an estimated 448,000 people were injured in distracted driving accidents (distraction.gov). Many years ago, the prevention of drunk driving was the main concern among organizations such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), Students Against Drunk Driving (SADD), and Every Fifteen Minutes. Yet now, with the numerous technological advances that have been made over just the past decade, there are many more opportunities for drivers to be distracted while on the road. The presence of items such as cell phones and iPods became such an issue that these organizations shifted their focus to include both drunk driving and distracted driving. However, distracted driving does not just include texting while driving. Distracted driving has come to also include other passengers, changing the radio station or song on a CD or iPod, or even Bluetooth devices that are created to make driving safer. In July of 2008, California law made it illegal for drivers to use a handheld cell phone while driving a car. Additionally, it prohibited drivers under the age of 18 from using a wireless cell phone or Bluetooth device. In 2009, California law tackled the texting issue and made it an infraction to “write, send, or
photo by Ryan Moorman
read text-based communication on an electronic wireless communications device while driving a motor vehicle” (dmv.ca.gov). With the help of these organizations and new laws, car accident fatalities have decreased over the years, but still remain a major issue, especially among young drivers.
photo by Mariah Doran
Every 15 Minutes: The choice is yours
By Lior Ayalon Newspaper Editor As we, Agoura High School students, mature and grow into young adults, we will face many difﬁcult decisions that have the capability to affect the rest of our lives. Just in the next few years, we will decide what college to attend, or if we even attend college at all. We might decide to directly enter the work force, or perhaps go into the Peace Corps or military. There are so many options. One option that hopefully no AHS student or alumni will ever choose is the one to drive under the inﬂuence of alcohol or while distracted. On April 6 and 7, 2011, the seniors and juniors of AHS got to actually experience the terrible consequences of these bad decisions as dedicated parent, student and teacher volunteers put on a program known as Every 15 Minutes, organized by AHs parents Gail Fridstein and Ziona Friedlander. At approximately 6 am, twenty-two committed juniors and seniors arrived in the G-building to begin mentally preparing for their deaths. There they played board games, ate a light breakfast and bonded with each other. There was an air of nervousness in the room, but the way that the students were laughing as they played Scrabble hid the fact. As the morning drew on,16 students who would play the role of the “living dead” left for their classes. From the moment classes started, every ﬁfteen minutes, Principal Larry Misel would make an announcement stating the “death” of two students at the hands of a drunk or distracted driver. The stories were realistic, ranging from students on their way home from sports practices to independent band concerts. The students were then pulled from their classes by a local sheriff’s deputy who read their obituary, and a school counselor who announced that the counseling ofﬁce was indeed open for grieving students. A black cloth draped over their seat and an obituary taped up around school would be all that remained of the student for the rest of the day. Junior Shane Krasovich, one of the living dead, said that he felt it was hard to keep a straight face with everyone staring at him as he left. “My friends were just in shock” said Krasovich. Senior Lauren Franke called the experience “nerve-wracking.” Meanwhile, in the front of the school on Driver Avenue, the determined organizers of Every 15 Minutes were setting up a mock car crash. They went to every possible length to make it as realistic as possible.
From bonaﬁde Hollywood make-up artists to legitimate looking damaged cars, it was a chilling sight. Junior and senior classes then ﬁlled the bleachers. Students were visibly affected as they watched their classmates suffer through the effects of a drunk driving accident. Junior Alexis Weiss and senior Robin Lifshitz “died” in the crash, as well as beloved social science teacher Gerald Pickett. Several students were even moved to tears during both the simulation and the subsequent display of memorials of the deceased mocked in the quad. The next day, students attended a mock memorial service in the gym during third period. A video was played for the mourning juniors and seniors showing not only the situation leading up to the crash, but also its consequences. Senior Brett Greenstein faced a lifetime in jail after being charged with two counts of manslaughter and a DOA. Senior Kelley Klezek suffered severe injuries that resulted in paralysis from the waist down, preventing her from ever being able to fulﬁll her athletic aspiration. As the video played, students couldn’t help but be moved to tears. After the video ended, students began to read letters addressed to their parents from beyond the grave, and several parents of “the deceased” also read letters addressed to their children. There was barely a dry eye in the house when Gerald Pickett read his letter to his wife and three children, asking them to move on and let happiness back into their lives. Every 15 Minutes provided AHS with two emotionally packed days. There is legitimate reason why freshman and sophomores are not allowed to participate or view the event. It presents emotions so cutting and raw that it is difﬁcult for even the most mature upperclassman to handle. But as junior Jamie Johannsen said just moments after the memorial, “that was probably the most worthwhile event of high school.” Principal Misel shared a similar sentiment when he said “this is a chance for our students to have a do-over. To see what they can lose. You guys aren’t superpowered you know. You think ‘it can’t happen to me’ but it can.” Consultant Mike Reynolds, who has supervised over 650 Every 15 Minutes programs around the state of California, said that despite the enormous cost, time and effort invested into the crash scene, the program is deﬁnitely worth it. Reynolds said “yes, cost is an issue. But what is a life worth? If this program saves just one life, it’s worth every penny.” photo by Mariah Doran
Wednesday, April 6
7:30 Senior Emma and junior Shayne Krasovich are pulled from their zero period classes. A Lost Hills Sheriff reads their obituaries and a counselor announces that the counseling ofﬁce will be open all day to students. 7:33 Principal Larry Misel announces that the Krasovich siblings were killed in a crosswalk by a drunk driver after their track practice. 8:50 Juniors Morgan Thornsley and Lauren Franke are pulled from their second period classes, with their obituaries read and placed on their chairs. . 8:53 Misel announces that Thornsley and Franke were killed after cheer practice by a distracted driver who was texting while driving. 9:05 Seniors Tanner Potts and Lauren Gay are pulled from their second period class, and their obituaries are read for the class. 9:08 Potts and Gay’s death is announced over the PA. Misel shares that a driver, distracted by other passengers in the car hit them, sending them to the hospital with fatal injuries.
10:05 Juniors Melissa Quintana and Kiana Boyd are pulled from their classes. 10:07 Misel announces that Quintana and Boyd were involved in a fatal car crash that is still under investigation. 10:22 Junior Matt Callahan is taken from the quad. 10:23 Misel announces the last student killed of the morning. Callahan was killed on his way to the beach by a driver who was under the inﬂuence of a high dose of prescription drugs. 10:26 Main crash victims change and have ﬁnal makeup applied (seniors Genesse Kayton, Tatiana Setty, Kelly Klezac, Robin Lifshitz, Brett Greenstein, junior Alexis Weisz, and teacher Gerald Pickett). 11:20 Juniors and seniors begin ﬁlling up the stands across from the school. 11:33 A 911 call plays over the speakers as well as the police correspondence.
9:20 Junior Sandy Choi and senior Alex Bhattacharya are taken from their classes.
11:35 Temporary walls are removed to reveal a realistically portrayed crash site.
9:24 Misel announces that Choi was hit by a speeding driver who lost control and Bhattacharya was killed by a drunk driver.
11:37 Pickett and Klezek are put on stretchers and taken away in ambulance
9:35 Juniors Josh Tobias and Brian Anderson are taken from their classes. 9:38 Misel announces that a drunk driver hit Tobias and Anderson’s car, killing them. 9:50 Junior Elizabeth McGrane and senior Kevin Croteau are pulled from their classes.
photo by Ryan Moorman
when he was cut off by a drunk driver and hit a telephone pole.
9:53 Misel announces that Elizabeth was killed by a distracted driver who ran through a red light. Croteau was riding his motorcycle
11:46 Greenstein, the driver of the vehicle, talks with the ofﬁcer and performs a sobriety test 11:52 The coroner arrives on the scene. Lifshitz and Weiss are put on stretchers and taken away. 11:55 The scene ends and Misel makes a short speech on making the important decision of not driving while distracted. 1:47 Victims leave AHS to visit mortuary and Lost Hills Sheriff Station
It could all end in seconds by Alex Bhattacharya Managing Editor
I ﬁrst heard about Every 15 Minutes since eighth grade, when my sister portrayed the drunk driver. It sounded intense, but I knew it was fake. So when I found out I was chosen to participate in this year’s program, I asked my sister what those two days would be like. She tried to explain it to me, but said I wouldn’t understand until I went through it myself. Yeah, I thought it was a great program and I was happy to be a part of it, but I didn’t really think too much of it. Sure, people are going to “die” and everything will be as real as it gets, but no one is actually going to die. There’s going to be a crash, cops are going to arrest someone, there’ll be a memorial service for those who “died”, and then everyone involved will go back to school and it’s over. As the months went by, I found myself forgetting about Every 15 Minutes, making my job of keeping it a secret pretty easy. I still didn’t feel anything weeks before. It was weird talking to my friends about it, making lunch plans I knew I couldn’t make, and my personal favorite, guessing who was going to die. Even the night before as I went to bed, it felt like just another night and the next day would be just another day of school. Not even 2nd period, the class I was getting pulled out of, felt weird. Everything seemed normal. Hearing the ﬁrst two “deaths” didn’t affect me at all, just because I knew who was being called out and there’s no impact without the shock factor. But about 40 minutes into class, someone went to the bathroom and I saw a police ofﬁcer and a counselor outside, practicing how to say my last name: “Bhatta-char-ya”. And that’s when I started freaking out. Knowing I was going to “die” in a matter of minutes brought butterﬂies to my stomach and it felt like they were standing outside for an eternity. Finally, they walked in, the police ofﬁcer said “Alexander C. Bhattacharya” and I got up, put my backpack on, and just walked out. After making the long walk to the GBuilding, I started the makeup process of becoming a Walking Dead. About a minute into the makeup, the PA system went on, and I heard Mr. Misel announce one drunk driving fatality, followed by the news of my death. I don’t remember if I died instantly or if I died at the hospital, but all I remember is hearing I died. Though I was clearly alive, I started thinking about if I really died. I thought of everything I was looking forward to doing, and how I never would be able to do them. Graduating high school, going on the road trip my friends and I have been planning since 8th grade, playing golf with my dad all summer like we planned... all of it suddenly gone. I told the counselors I was okay, but hearing my own death really hit me hard. I realized I was still alive, but I began to understand what my sister had meant. What if she actually killed three people and went to jail for 20 years? Instead of graduating college this May, she would be in a jail cell, not even done with a quarter of her sentence. The crash scene took everything to a whole different level. Before, the crash was something that was going to happen. Suddenly, it was actually happening. When the screens ﬁnally went up, everything turned into a reality. There was so much going on, but the thing that stuck with me was Brett calling out to Robin, hoping he would wake up. Seeing someone trying to wake up their dead best friend was too much, fake or real. All I could think about is what if I killed my best friend? From the other car came cries of help from two of my friends, Genesee and Kelley. As Kelley screamed, “Get me out! I can’t feel my legs! Please get me out!” I just wanted to get her out of the car. My mind kept lapsing in and out of reality, one second knowing it
was all fake, and the next thinking that Brett killed three people in a drunk driving accident and Kelley was paralyzed from the waist down. The crash ended as the police drove away and the coroners loaded the bodies, but the scene stayed in my mind for the rest of the day. The retreat portion consisted of the highest of highs, and the lowest of lows. We were on an emotional roller coaster the entire night. The counselors leading the retreat would get us laughing and having fun, and then they would follow that with sobering material that reminded why we were doing this. Every few hours we would “check in” and just talk about how we were doing. I like to keep the mood light hearted, and I was never really comfortable talking about emotional stuff. But seeing everyone else open up to each other allowed me to share. One person in particular that really helped me out was Mr. Pickett. I’ve never met Mr. Pickett in my life, yet he was willing to share with me how much of an emotional toll it took on him. If he can do it, why can’t I? I gained so much respect for Mr. Pickett in those two days and I speak for everyone involved when I say, thank you. But the hardest part by far came Wednesday night, when we had to write death letters to our families. I knew eventually I would have to write it, but I never imagined it would be as difﬁcult and emotional as it was. The situation was fake, but the emotions I felt were very real. As I wrote about saying goodbye to my family for the last time, all I could think of is how much they’ve done for me in my life. I couldn’t stop myself from crying. My eyes watered so much, it was difﬁcult to even read what I was writing. It was the toughest page and a half I’ve ever written. And it didn’t get easier from there. When we ﬁnished writing our letters, we were told to write a “Yes” if we were willing to speak, or a “No”. I wrote yes, not really thinking about what I was agreeing to. But right after I turned mine in, I started to question my decision. If I could barely get through writing the letter, how could I possibly read it to the school with my mom in the front row? I was wishing I didn’t get picked, but the next morning I found out I was speaking last at the memorial. The entire morning I could only think about standing up in front of everyone, bawling my eyes out as I told my mom how I should have appreciated her more. My usual morning appetite was nowhere to be found, and nothing could shake my concentration on what was happening in a couple of hours. Sure we played games to lighten the mood, but no matter how much fun I seemed to be having, it was all a front for a very nervous and scared person. As we took the long walk to our seats and watched the video, I was mentally preparing myself. The video ended and Tanner calmly got up from his chair, walked to the podium, cleared his throat, and began. Thinking back, I should have been thankful I wasn’t chosen ﬁrst. I was able to feed off everyone’s courage, knowing that it’s just as hard for them. Seeing how strong everyone else stayed helped me tremendously. It let me calm down and just read what I wrote. But there was still so much raw emotion with every word I spoke. I was surprised that I got through the speech without breaking down, but when I got to hug my mom afterwards, I completely lost it. I got to tell her I love her face-to-face and not in a death letter. I wasn’t dead. Everything was over. It was all okay. Being a part of Every 15 Minutes is something I am extremely proud of and will never forget. I would like to thank everyone who went through this with me and made this event possible. I hope that it helped save lives from tragic endings. Everything I went through reminded me to never take anything for granted and be thankful for living. Life isn’t guaranteed. You never know when it could end.
Photos courtesy of Gail Fridstein
The car crash described in this newspaper did not actually occur.