Only hours apart and blocks away, two cars, each carrying five passengers, plunged into the waters of Astoria last weekend. In the first accident, a vehicle overturned into Steinway Creek and four people died. The next morning, on Saturday, April 5, a car went through a fence and ended up in the East River near 20th Avenue and Shore Boulevard, according to police. Everyone in the second car survived.
Though it isn’t certain what measures could have helped the passengers in the first vehicle safely escape, with the right tips and tools, others can avoid a similar fate.
About 400 people die every year in North America from drowning after becoming trapped in their vehicles, according to resqme Inc., a company that manufactures portable auto rescue tools.
Resqme, with the help of Professor Gordon Giesbrecht of the University of Manitoba, who has conducted hundreds of experiments involving cars submerged in water with their passengers, offers the following “steps for survival”:
1. Breathe deeply.
2. Stay calm. It is during the floating phase that you need to escape from your car.
3. Do not use your cell phone.
4. Seat belt: Detach it or, if jammed, cut it with a tool if you have one.
5. Side window: Open it or, if blocked, protect your eyes and break it with a special tool if you have one.
6. Children: Detach their seat belts, or, if jammed, cut seat belts and let the children out from oldest to youngest.
7. Exit: Swim until you reach the closest bank.
The company makes two products that can be used for vehicle submersion or in other emergency escape situations — the LifeHammer and the smaller resqme, which attaches to a key ring. Both can cut seatbelts and break windows.
When a tool isn’t available and the windows won’t open, it’s better to wait until the pressure is equalized in the car before trying to open the doors, according to AAA New York’s spokesman, Robert Sinclair Jr.