OGDEN -- At 9:15 a.m. Thursday, Brandon Reardon found himself in the driver's seat of a semi-crushed car, peering through a shattered windshield at the smashed front end of a beige minivan.
As the 18-year-old Ogden man sat motionless, a crimson drop worked a slow path from his forehead, past his closing right eye, toward his jaw.
Two fire trucks and an ambulance arrived, and a police car pulled up, siren blaring.
Across the intersection, curious students poured out of the DaVinci Academy to see what was happening. Teachers at the charter school helped the group cross the street. Students surveyed the scene, weeping, stunned or laughing nervously as emergency responders used the jaws of life to remove the roof from the green Audi.
As paramedics slid a backboard under the motionless Reardon, students realized the blond, curly-haired youth was one of their own, a well-liked senior. Tears flowed, and students hugged each other for comfort.
Then the truth:
It was all a setup, and everyone except the young spectators was in on the ruse. Pre-wrecked cars were donated and delivered by Ogden Auto Body. The emergency workers knew the staged accident was a prelude to their talks about the dangers of distracted driving.
Reardon, still caked with fake blood, was fine. Released from the backboard, he walked to the crowd and accepted a hug from buddy Stephanie Kemp, who still couldn't stop crying.
"When I heard it was Brandon, I freaked out," said Kemp, 16, of Ogden, still struggling to regain her composure 10 minutes later. "He's one of my best friends, and I believed he was paralyzed. I know there's a good lesson to learn from it: Don't text and drive. But after seeing that, I'm not sure if I even want to get my license."
DaVinci special education teacher Mike Kelly was one of the event organizers.
"We wanted to do something that would hit home and be relevant to that age group," he said. "We wanted to teach them an important lesson. With education, you lose a lot of kids who are not interested and who think they have seen it all. We wanted to give them an experience they would remember.
"A lot of kids are just getting their licenses, and texting is a pretty significant part of their lives. We don't want to lose students to something as silly as asking where one of their friends may want to eat dinner."
Two days' worth of coursework was planned around the fake crash. Students will examine their feelings about what they saw and will create posters, public service announcements or short videos that promote the idea that texting while driving is illegal and can be deadly.
After the safety talks, Kelly debriefed his students. Most could see the value of getting a potentially lifesaving message in a way they would not forget.
"It hurt a lot because Brandon is a really good kid," Tony Condie, 17, of Plain City, said of viewing the staged accident scene. "He's nice to everybody. It seemed very real. It did teach a good lesson. I turn off my phone before I drive, and I will not drive with somebody who is texting."
Randi Kraus, 12, of Ogden, agreed.
"I have a couple of classes with Brandon, and that made it real," she said. "I'm not going to text when I drive, I can tell you that."
Eddy Martinez, 17, Ogden, admits laughing at the scene.
"I was sad at first, then made jokes. I don't know why. Then, when I found out the truth, I was mad. They made everyone believe it was real."
When Kelly asked the students if they saw the whole event as a mean prank, at least a quarter of the two dozen or so teens nodded their heads. Kelly told students he had expected that and the discussion would continue, and all the students would get a chance to express themselves and channel their emotions into something positive.
Braden Brockbrader, 16, from West Haven, believed the ends did not justify the means and told Kelly so.
"I'm here at DaVinci, not at a public school where I don't know people," he said. "You could have put anyone in that car. We all know each other so well, you may have well put my brother or my mom in that car, and I did not appreciate that."
Brockbrader said later that he understood teachers' motivations.
"Cruel and harsh as the whole thing was, it's going to stick with me," he said. "It's definitely a lesson learned."