Gruesome scene at Liberty High School hopefully prompts smart choices
June 1, 2010
By Chantelle Lusebrink
The lifeless body of Alexis Court, a Liberty High School senior and student officer, lay beneath a yellow tarp between two mangled vehicles in the student parking lot at 9 a.m. May 25. Beer cans spilled from one vehicle as the driver staggered out.
As Eastside Fire & Rescue firefighters and King County Sheriff’s deputies began checking pulses and getting stretchers, firefighter Ryan Anderson talked to the students circled around the school’s mock crash simulation.
Spring is a time of celebration for students at high schools across the state with prom, senior breakfasts and graduations. Parties often follow those functions.
Faculty members and the Liberty Parents, Teachers and Students Association put on the reminder.
“We do this once every two years,” Principal Mike Deletis said. “We want the kids to think about their choices during summer and through the senior season of celebration.
“We want to give them an experience they can look back on and hopefully help them realize they aren’t invincible, and that even the minute choices they make in life can have consequences that can last a lifetime.”
In the aftermath of the fake, head-on collision, two 2010 class graduates were dead, two were airlifted to Harborview Medical Center and senior Ryan Darnall was arrested for drinking and driving. He would likely face vehicular homicide charges if the situation had occurred, Anderson said.
Entering the school’s gym, firefighters and deputies recounted their experiences with real accidents involving students, and detailed the criminal charges they could face if the deadly scenarios had actually taken place.
“We do this because we’d rather be proactive rather than reactive to situations like this, and we do it because we want the kids to know we care about them,” said Deputy Dave Montalvo, the school’s resource officer.
To hit the point home, Aaron Braunworth, a 2000 Liberty graduate, came to speak.Braunworth was charged with vehicular homicide and driving under the influence at 22, after a night of drinking resulted in his designated driver abandoning he and his friend with the keys to his truck.
With only a mile or so left to drive to his house, Aaron fell asleep or passed out at the wheel. His truck careened off the roadway at Southeast 128th Way in the East Renton Highlands on the way up the hill from Southeast May Valley Road, sending it into the air and slamming into a power pole.
Waking from a coma four days later, he thought he’d hit rock bottom until his mother told him his roommate Tyler, 21, had been in the car with him and had died.
“Prison sucks. It’s no fun,” he said, of his two-and-a-half-year sentence. “But prison ain’t shit compared to knowing that you killed one of your best friends.”
It was the first time Braunworth had spoken to a group larger than a few people. But he said in some small way he hoped his words would mean his friend’s death wasn’t in vain.
By sharing his pain, he said, maybe students would think twice about their decisions and even stop poor decisions from being made by others.
“You guys are the heroes,” Anderson said, echoing Braunworth’s statements. “You have the power to stop someone from getting in a car that has been drinking or to make your friends wear seatbelts.”
Chantelle Lusebrink: 392-6434, ext. 241, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.