Convicted felon Adam Cochrane told Liberty County High School students Thursday during a prom-promise that the choices one makes are like ripples on a pond — they leave behind consequences that affect others. Cochrane, a Bradwell Institute graduate, said his choosing to drink and drive one night in 2004 cost three people their lives.
“They were coming home from church bingo,” Cochrane said. He told students he has served his time in prison, but even free, he will always feel guilty knowing he is alive to enjoy life but three other individuals are not.
Cochrane said he hopes that by sharing his experiences he can help deter students from making the same tragic mistake he made.
“Learn from me,” he said. “Let me be your teaching tool.”
Following Cochrane’s talk, school administrators showed a documentary titled “Enduring Regret,” which features Chris Sandy.
Sandy, like Cochrane, caused the deaths of several people when driving drunk. Sandy said he hit the victims’ car with such force, it split into halves, killing an elderly woman on impact. Her husband was taken to a hospital by air ambulance but died several hours later, Sandy said.
The teens watched the screen as Sandy offered a tour of his cramped jail cell, and listened as he described the miseries of prison life — another consequence of the poor choice he made.
Prom promise serves to make students aware of the dangers of drinking and driving, and of texting and driving, according to event organizer and school resource officer Lt. Vernecia Mells. The event was held specifically for juniors and seniors who bought tickets to Saturday’s prom, according to Mells.
Liberty County Sheriff Steve Sikes and Chief Deputy Jon Long spoke early in the program. Gary Sanchez with AT&T then set up distracted-driving simulators, so students could better visualize the hazards of texting and driving. Volunteering agencies included the Liberty County Sheriff’s Office, the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety, Coastal Auto, Fort Stewart Army Substance Abuse Center, LCHS faculty and staff, the Georgia State Patrol, Liberty County EMA and EMS. Individual volunteers included Melissa Carter Ray with State Farm Insurance and Liberty County Coroner Reginald Pierce.
In a rear parking lot, a host of Liberty County Sheriff’s Office deputies assisted students who tried — and failed — to navigate an obstacle course while wearing goggles that impaired their vision as they took turns driving golf carts. The goggles simulate the “under the influence” effect.
Retired law-enforcement officers with the Coastal Area Traffic Enforcement Network also demonstrated what happens to drivers and passengers when a vehicle rolls over in an accident using a rollover simulator. Students gasped as mannequin passengers — who were not properly secured by seat belts — were thrown high in the air, over their heads, landing on the pavement beside them.
In addition to ground emergency personnel participating in the event, an emergency-helicopter crew from Air Evac Lifeteam’s Jesup base landed at the close of prom promise to simulate transport of one mock victim, Mells said.