Montclair, NJ -- The Montclair Fire Department, in conjunction with the Montclair Police Department and the Montclair Ambulance Unit (MAU), conducted an extrication drill earlier Wednesday to demonstrate to high school students the tragic effects of texting while driving.

Nearly 100 students and teachers watched the demonstration in front of the Montclair High School Gymnasium on Midland Avenue.

The event was organized by Fire Official John Thomas, Lt. Stephanie Egnezzo of the Police Traffic Bureau and Police Department ‎School Resource Detective Kim Nelson-Edwards. The MAU’s James Simpson and Ashley Vegliante were EMS coordinators.

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A mock vehicle crash was set up at the crosswalk between the gymnasium and the ball field, using an automobile and school bus donated by Roach’s Towing Service.

The accident scenario has a garbage truck stopping for a student in a pedestrian crosswalk. A sedan with a distracted driver and a passenger has a rear end collision with the truck. The garbage truck subsequently hits the pedestrian. This scenario is then followed by a school bus filled with students smashing into the rear of the sedan.

Montclair High School students acted as bus crash victims and police, fire and ambulance unit personnel saw to the injured. Detective Nelson-Edwards narrated the series of events to the crowd of students and teachers.

Fire and Police officials were on the scene soon after to rescue the crash victims, first tending to the pedestrian struck down by the garbage truck. Firefighters used the Jaws of Life to cut open the sedan’s driver’s door to perform CPR on the victims trapped inside. Rescue workers then placed the accident victims on stretchers, stabilized them and took them to an awaiting ambulance.

“This type of drill is an excellent exercise for training our students, the public, and even our own people,” said Sgt. Egnezzo. “They provide a very clear picture of the severe life-threatening damage that can happen in the split-second when someone is distracted while driving.”

Fire Official John Thomas emphasized the training benefit of this type of drill, saying, “The exercise has a dual objective: to offer an educational demonstration for the students while providing our public safety officials with an opportunity to execute the drill, working in tandem with other officials.”

“It promotes teamwork among the three agencies – the police department, the fire department, and emergency medical services. Of course, the most critical aspect of the exercise was to emphasize to young drivers how quickly lives can change as result of texting while driving,” said Thomas.

The extrication exercise was made possible by support from the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives (NOBLE), the Montclair PBA and DCH Montclair Acura.


Photo: Firefighters use Jaws of Life to open a crashed vehicle.