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Holyoke teens thankful after two close calls PDF Print E-mail
Written by Darci Tomky   

Thanksgiving is a day to fill up on pumpkin pie, watch football and prepare for the Black Friday sales, right? Yes, that’s what many across the country did last Thursday, but this year the holidays look much different for two teenage girls in Holyoke.

The real meaning of Thanksgiving rang true for two families after a couple close calls a few weeks ago. They all have a little more to be thankful for this year.

Collision an eye-opener for 16-year-old Prelle

Thursday, Nov. 10, HHS junior Cierra Prelle was simply heading to the grocery store around 5 p.m. to grab a soda before driving to the day care to pick up her little brothers.Prelle was excited to be driving the Ford F250 pickup her family had just gotten.

Facing east at the stoplight in Holyoke, Prelle was ready to make a left turn at the same time a semitruck, facing west, was also making a left turn.

Cierra Prelle’s Ford F250 pickup was pretty bent up, with the entire
frame moved about a foot, after her Nov. 10 collision at the intersection
of Interocean and Denver in Holyoke. The 16-year-old was not badly
injured, just shaken up after this eye-opening accident.

“I thought it was all clear,” said Prelle, not realizing a pickup pulling a flatbed trailer driving west was headed straight for her in the right lane of Denver Street.

“I can’t believe it happened,” she said, thinking back to the collision that Thursday night. “I’m not going to forget it.”

The young 16-year-old was pretty shaken up after her first accident as a driver. Since she was wearing her seat belt, she only went to the hospital with a concussion and whiplash. “If I would have been in my car, it would have been pretty bad,” said Prelle.

She said the other pickup didn’t look as bad as hers did and the driver was not injured.

Prelle said the moments immediately following her accident were kind of like an “out-of-body experience,” noting she kept thinking back to the Every 15 Minutes drunk driving simulation she saw at HHS a year ago.

“Everyone thinks it won’t happen to them,” said Prelle, admitting that even though simulations like Every 15 Minutes are powerful, she didn’t see anything like that happening to her since at the time she didn’t even have her license yet.

Prelle hopes drivers will realize things like texting while driving and drinking and driving can make accidents like this much, much worse. “Mine was a simple accident,” she said, noting she wasn’t texting or drunk. “I wasn’t distracted, so you don’t need distractions.”

“I hope it taught my friends a lesson,” added Prelle. “I hope it will show them how easy it can happen.”

HHS junior Cierra Prelle, at right,
is pictured with friend Margarita Fierro.
She was grateful to be able to spend time
with family and friends over Thanksgiving

The HHS junior said her friends and family showed a lot of concern, and she certainly doesn’t mind people at school asking a lot of questions. “I don’t want them to assume anything,” said Prelle.

She said she hopes everyone will be safe. Prelle has made wearing her seat belt a habit and hopes other people will too.

Prelle felt bad because Nov. 10 happened to be her little sister’s birthday, but the family had much to be thankful for considering the outcome of the collision.

It was a big eye-opener for Prelle’s mom Janette Helgoth, who was quick to realize material possessions are not as important as people think they are.

“It definitely makes me thankful and see what’s important in life,” said Prelle.


Seat belts save lives the motto for Redman family

“Oh, I see Holyoke. I’ll be fine.” That’s what 18-year-old Whitni Redman told herself when she was driving home from her boyfriend’s house close to midnight the night of Friday, Nov. 11.

A couple miles east of Paoli on Highway 6, the HHS senior dozed off at the wheel, awaking to find her car running off the left side of the road. She swerved to miss a road marker, and the car traveled across both lanes, rotating, until it rolled two and one-half times to land on its top in the right side ditch.

It is a miracle 18-year-old Whitni Redman walked away from her rollover accident just east of Paoli the night of Nov. 11. Her 2008 Pontiac is a total loss after rolling two and one-half times and catching on fire. With no serious injuries, Redman is thankful she had her seat belt on, the one thing that probably saved her life.

“The scary part is people just don’t walk away from that,” said Whitni’s mom Misti Redman.

Miraculously, Whitni did walk away from it. She doesn’t remember a lot of the accident, but somehow she managed to get out of the upside-down car that had immediately caught fire after the rollover.

Just minutes after the accident, a NAPA truck pulled over to assist Whitni, followed by HHS students Jesus Hermosillo and Maddie King.

Misti, who was with friends that Friday night, immediately panicked when she heard Holyoke’s emergency whistle blow at midnight and Whitni was not home yet. She called Whitni’s cell phone, and luckily, Whitni had grabbed it from the car and was able to answer, although she was not coherent enough to really answer her mom’s terrified questions.

After spending that night and the next day in the hospital, Whitni only suffered a concussion and some bruising on her lungs. “Dr. Rick said Whitni would be the poster child for seat belts,” said Misti.

Seat belts actually do something, said Whitni and Misti, noting it’s what saved her life.

Out of the 35,000 people that die in rollovers in America each year, half could be saved if they had just worn their seat belts, said Whitni.

Sleeping drivers are more dangerous than drunk drivers, said Misti. Stopping the car and doing jumping jacks is a good way to wake up, advised Whitni.

After her scary car accident a few weeks ago, HHS senior Whitni
Redman is especially thankful for the love and support she receives
from her family and friends. She’s pictured at left on Thanksgiving
with her parents Misti and Jason Redman, brother Holden Redman
and dog Zoey.

During this holiday season, the Redmans are realizing just how lucky they are, not only for Whitni’s safety but also for the great support system of family and friends they have.

“It was an eye-opener,” said Whitni, noting all of the things she takes for granted.

“The what-ifs are really hard,” said Misti. “We’re just thankful. Enjoy each day because you never know what can happen.”

Holyoke Enterprise December 1, 2011