I was cruising down the road just like I do every day on my way to the gym; little did I know today would turn out to be a very different day. I was about a quarter of a mile behind a Corvette when I watched it suddenly drive off the road into a canal. I immediately pulled off the road and I was the first person to get to the scene.
Surprisingly everything looked peaceful and if you hadn’t seen the car go off the road you would never have known it was in the canal. The car was floating a top the water but I knew we only had about 45 seconds before the chaos. I reached into my left driver’s side compartment and grabbed my rescue tool. There was no movement from the vehicle and I had a sinking feeling the driver lost consciousness. Luckily my mom taught me to swim before I was one, so I did what I felt comfortable doing: swam out to the car. Sure enough the driver was unconscious, buckled in his seat and was waist deep in murky water. “You only have 30 secs,” I told myself.
At that moment another man showed up by my side and we shattered the driver side window with my rescue tool. Together we tried to pull him out, but the seatbelt was still buckled and to make matters worse we could not reach the buckle. I quickly swam around to the other side, shattered the window with the rescue tool and leaned into the car. Water was now up to the unconscious driver’s chest; however, I managed to slice the seat belt just below the buckle with the same window breaking tool. We pulled the driver out through the window and swam him back to the rocky edge of the canal. As I crawled out I looked back to see the car was already gone, sunk below deep in the canal. The whole thing happened within a couple minutes. The driver spent three days in the hospital where he made a full recovery.
So, what do you do if you are the one trapped in a car that just drove into water or you have to save someone from the shore?
- Don’t panic. Tell yourself, “I will get out of here quickly.”
- Don’t even think to pick up your phone to call 911. You have at most 60 seconds to get out.
- Unbuckle your belt and roll down the windows right away and get out. If you have kids in the car get them out first.
Always carry a tool that both breaks a window and can cut a seatbelt. Keep it within arm’s reach of your seat. You can find one here or swing by our office and we will give anyone one for free.
I hope you never need to use this information. But as my boy and Eagle Scout step-dad always taught me: be prepared.