Around 400 people/year die each year in the United States while being submerged fully or partially in water. Prior events such as tree impact or rollovers often injure vehicle occupants before entrance into the water. Most vehicles will only float on the surface of the water from 30 – 60 seconds. Therefore, it is critical that the occupants make every attempt to bail out of the vehicle immediately once the vehicle enters water with sufficient depth to submerge the vehicle.
What happens to a submerged vehicle:
- If the fall height is not great – vehicles will initially float from 30 seconds to not more than 2 minutes in deep water.
- Some vehicles completely submerge right away if the fall height is great enough.
- Tempered windows can burst upon impact – causing faster sinking
- Vehicles with all windows closed will float longer then those with all windows open, providing a greater chance of escape or rescue.
- Vehicles with engines in front will descend engine first at a steep angle. In water 15′ deep or more, such a vehicle may rest on its top at the end of the descent.
- If the water is deep, vehicles can completely turn over landing on the roof.
- Doors cannot be opened until water pressure inside the car is equal to that outside. This may be too late for those inside.
What happens to the occupants:
- Wearing a seat belt will increase the chances of occupant’s surviving the initial impact with the water.
- Water may short vehicle electronics leaving the doors locked.
- Occupants may already be incapacitated or unable to struggle to get out due to prior impact or injury during the crash cycle.
- Conscious occupants must disengage their seatbelt ASAP to be able to get out.
- Escape devices such as hammers or punches can be used to shatter tempered glass — laminated glass takes much longer.
- Occupants who act fast to roll down or break windows to escape prior to submersion have the highest survivability.
- Breathing occupants can survive fully submerged for several minutes to 20 minutes before drowning if rescue crews can gain quick access.
Rescue from Outside the Vehicle
- If the car is floating on the surface with all the windows closed, the best way for the rescuer to enter is through a window. Rear window entry probably offers the best opportunity.
- Rescuers trying to enter the vehicle through open windows must be aware of the suction through the windows while the car is filling as the windows disappear below the surface.
Two major concerns which must be addressed by all rescue personnel is that many late model vehicles now have electric windows and laminated glass. During a submersion incident, it is unlikely that these windows will be able to be opened except with blunt force or the use of RHYNO Hydro.
The fastest way into any vehicle where the doors cannot open on ground or under water is through the windows — RHYNO Saves Lives!