Most of us wouldn’t imagine ourselves being caught in a sinking car. However, a recent case from China shows the importance of knowing emergency survival skills in times of crisis. Here, we discuss how to escape a sinking car. But first, the incident that’s making rounds on social media.
When a Sinking Car Becomes a Ticking Time Bomb
A video recorded the astonishing moment when a desperate father threw his infant daughter to onshore spectators as his car was sinking.
The incident happened in Hunan province, China. Apparently the man and his family were on their way back after dropping by on relatives for the Spring Festival. However, witnesses claimed that the vehicle’s driver accidentally swerved off the countryside road they were travelling on. The car sank into lake water, with a pier close by.
Motorists travelling on the road and ferry operators at the pier hurried to rescue the family, throwing life jackets near the sinking car. The man’s family swiftly crawled their way out of the car towards its roof before it became fully submerged. The dad, holding his daughter, manages to get onto the car’s hood.
Sheer Desperation and Panic
The onlookers advise him of two difficult options: either to throw the infant, or keep her with him. Out of sheer panic and desperation, the dad manages tosses the crying infant into mid-air, over the water and a rocky bank, where an onlooker safely catches her.
The dad himself is thrown into the waters due to force of flinging his child. As the water isn’t too deep, he manages to pull himself onto the bank. His remaining family members, on the roof of the car manage to bring it near the pier.
Thankfully, the aftermath of this heart-wrenching incident saw no grave injuries among the crash victims. The car was also later dragged away by the authorities.
Since then, the tense moment of the baby flung through the air has made its rounds on social media, with netizens divided on their opinions. Some criticise him for tossing his child, risking greater injuries, while others sided with him, arguing that it’s difficult to keep a cool head in times of crisis.
What do you think, parents? Did he make the right choice? Watch the suspenseful moment below:
How to Escape a Sinking Car
Parents, it helps to know what to do in rare – albeit life-threatening – situations like this. Here’s a short, five-step guide that will help you make the right decisions in case you’re trapped in a sinking car.
1. Prepare for the collision
- Be mentally prepared. Colliding with the water alone could blow up the airbag – so do cross your arms and lean your head downwards. This position will reduce chances of serious injury due to the airbag inflating.
- Call the local emergency hotline until you’re out of the vehicle. Every second is crucial here and should be spent escaping. Remember: Time is of the essence!
2. Remain calm and unbuckle your seatbelt
- Remain calm. Most people who don’t survive panic and can’t even unbuckle their seatbelts. If you can’t keep calm and unbuckle, you won’t be able help save your family.
- Unbuckle your seatbelt, or cut it vertically with a seatbelt cutter if it gets stuck. Doing so gives you space to move and help others.
- Skip on wearing a seatbelt while travelling. Don’t let the possibility of struggling with a seatbelt in a sinking vehicle deter you from wearing your seatbelt in the first place. The seatbelt’s job is to make sure you don’t crash through your windshield and into the water.
3. Roll open the window or use the headrests to smash it open
- Open the side windows. There are a few good reasons for this:
- Opening the car’s door allows water to engulf the car’s insides rapidly, speeding up the sinking process.
- Opening the door isn’t easy since the external water pressure pushes against it too. The only time it becomes easy is when the entire car is filled with water.
- Use the headrests or a window hammer to smash the side windows.
Break the windows. Once the car is submerged, water will short the circuits of these electronically-controlled windows, making them impossible to roll down. Your only option is to break the window. You can break the window using your elbow, by kicking it with your feet, or even a sharp, durable object, like your high heels! You can also buy hammer-like devices like the LifeHammer or the ResQMe keychain that can shatter glass. Remember though to have these tools nearby. Break the window as quickly as you can, since they don’t work when the car is fully submerged.
- Be QUICK! Should you be trapped in a submerged car, you have about 30 seconds to a minute before the water rises to the bottom of the passenger windows. Once it does, however, the water pressure will force the window against the doorframe, making it almost impossible to roll down.
- Open the door (for the same reasons explained above).
4. Get out of the car
- Calm your children. Once you’re done unbuckling your seatbelt, help your kids calm down. Tell your children that no matter how dire the situation, keep calm and breathe as usual until the the water level rises to that of your chest. Then, help them unbuckle if they’re having trouble with their seatbelts. Start with the eldest child first.
- Help your children out first. Children should go out first because they will have a harder time fighting the rush of water. Push them out first. Start with older kids and take the youngest in your arms. You can try asking the older kids and your spouse for help.
- Wrap infants or toddlers in your arms to swim the child to a safe location.
5. Swim to a safe area, preferably onshore
Get out. Once the windows are broken, exit the car as fast possible before water starts flooding the inside of the car.
Not worry if water was able to fill your car anyway. The pressure on the door from the outside will equalise with the inside, so you’ll be able to open the door. You’ll have to hold your breath as you exit.
- Make your way to the surface as fast as you can. Here are a few reminders:
- Murky water? Illuminate the way with a flashlight.
- Not sure where to go? Air bubbles will point the way to the surface.
- Be alert towards surrounding objects – especially if there are structural or floating objects that you can grab onto and pull you towards the surface.
- Take your own sweet time. You won’t have much time before the car drags you down. Make the most out of the available time and swim as fast as possible once the door is open. Make sure that when you do, there’s no one else left behind.
Once you’ve reached shore…
- Check if there’s anyone missing.
- Maintain body temperature by keeping warm.
- Send an SOS signal or call out so that rescuers can find you. You can even use your flashlight to shine an SOS signal if there’s no one else around.
But… what if I can’t swim?
First, try to calm yourself as best as you possibly can. Panicking will only tire you faster and increase your risk of drowning.
If you find yourself in this situation alone, lie on your back and reserve some air within your lungs as you breathe.
While full of air, your lungs will function like a buoyant balloon: helping your body float towards the surface. Eventually, your face should be able to break through the water surface – but don’t completely exhale out of relief just yet! Once your lungs are out of air, your body will only sink further.
After that, it all comes down to the direction of the water current or waves, which will eventually push you towards land. How long before you reach safety depends on the location of your collision.
If you do manage to spot others nearby, wave your arms to alert them that you are drowning. Once alerted, it is very likely that they would swim to your aid or call emergency services for help.
Reference: The Washington Post