The story of a 19-year-old Ashville teen who died in a drunken driving crash in 2010 was retold Tuesday at Forest Hills High School.
Daniel W. LeComte was a passenger in a car driven by Kevin McElheny, 21, of Loretto, when the vehicle crashed on Lemon Drop Road in East Carroll Township on Aug. 7.
“I killed my friend,” McElheny said, his melancholy features seen on a video viewed by about 500 students in the auditorium
LeComte died of a head injury. McElheny was drunk at the wheel. He was sentenced to serve 16 to 32 months in the county prison.
“It happened right here in Cambria County,” District Attorney Kelly Callihan said. “The driver was drunk. He was over the limit. It is real. It happens here.”
The presentation was part of a two-hour program targeting driving under the influence, distracted driving and speeding through construction zones.
The program came at a time when students are preparing for the junior/senior prom.
Heroin is the new killer, authorities said.
“This heroin epidemic is killing your generation,” Callihan said. “If you line up 10 people and asked them how it started, all 10 will say, ‘I started with pot.
‘Then I started on (prescription) pills, and before you know it, I’m a heroin addict.’
“You can help your classmates by reporting it and getting them help,” Callihan said.
Texting or applying makeup while driving can be fatal, said Dan Zakraysek, county traffic safety coordinator and former Upper Yoder Township police chief.
“When a female driver is putting on lip gloss, her eyes are taken off the road,” he said.
Same with texting, Zakraysek said.
“No text is that important that you have to look at your phone,” he said. “You can lose control. Distracted driving can be lethal.”
Careless drivers endanger road crews as they pave and repair roads during warm weather, Adams Township police Chief Kirk Moss said.
“It’s us residents who are being lackadaisical and not paying attention. We’re killing our own construction people,” he said. “Let’s keep our roadways safe.”
Other speakers included Chief Deputy Coroner Jeffrey Lees and a representative from PennDOT.
Senior Richard McClelland, 18, found the DUI video gripping.
“Kids our age don’t think about the consequences,” he said. “Have fun at a party and drink and drive. The thing about those videos is they really show you how a situation like that can impact you.”
Classmate Kara Hritz, 18, said she and her friends do not drink and drive.
“I don’t hang out with that type of crowd,” she said. “None of my friends do.”
The event concluded outdoors with the landing of a medical helicopter and local firefighters demonstrating how they use power tools to cut open a vehicle to free crash victims.
Patrick Buchnowski is a reporter with The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on twitter.com/PatBuchnowskiTD.