Explainer: What to do when your car plunges in water - Beaking Kenya News

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Sunday, 17 January 2021

Explainer: What to do when your car plunges in water


Salim Omar and his assistant escaped death in the Indian Ocean on January 10, thanks to the swift action of the public at the Likoni Channel crossing.

Omar was trying to get on the MV Jambo ferry, when the Pollman's tours bus he was driving began to slide from the ramp.

"I tried to brake but the bus kept on sliding," he told journalists after his rescue by fishermen and lifeguards.

Within minutes of the bus sliding into water, Omar and his assistant jumped out the windows, onto the waiting boats and off to safety.

A team led by the Kenya Ferry Services helped haul the bus from the ocean.

Winnie Achieng’, 33, wasn’t as lucky. She died in December last year when her car hit a pavement and plunged into the Indian Ocean.

She was heading towards Mombasa Island from Changamwe with her 12-year-old son. The boy managed to get out of the car and swim to safety.

Achieng’, however, remained strapped to her seat and despite being helped out of the car, died later in hospital as she had drank much water.

In 2019, Mariam Kigenda, 36, and her daughter Amanda Mutheu, four, died after their car plunged into the Indian Ocean.

Their vehicle veered off the rear ramp aboard the ferry MV Harambee. Ferry users watched as the vehicle floated at first, then began to sink.

The bodies were recovered after 13 days, with rescuers saying mother and daughter were found in a tight embrace.

Perhaps if they knew some quick things to do when your car plunges into water, some of these victims could have saved themselves.

Sometimes, the difference between life and death is about split-second decision-making. It is perhaps why the 12-year-old boy survived but his mother did not.

Quick steps to survival

If your car plunges into water, you need to get out of the car in about one to two minutes – the time it takes for the vehicle to sink.

The front, where the engine is, sinks first because it is heavier. Quick thinking and staying calm could help you survive.

Ken Burton, a certified Air Force instructor told the Washington Post in 2013 that there are a few quick steps you can do to save yourself if your car plunges into water. The advice is reproduced below.

  • Open the window as fast as possible – before you hit the water, if you can, or immediately afterwards.
  • Stay still, with your seatbelt on, until the water in the car goes up to your chin. Then take several slow, deep breaths and hold one.
  • Do not try to open the door until the water has stopped flooding into the car. Initially, the water outside will put pressure on the door, meaning you won’t be able to open it from the inside. The pressure inside and outside should equalize about the time you start holding your breath.
  • If you can’t open a door and you’re trying to break a window instead, aim for a side window, never the windshield. Windshields are several layers thick. The car headrest, the belt buckle or any other sharp objects can help you break the windows.
  • Don’t take off your seat belt until you have opened the door or window. Grip the steering wheel before you unbuckle. You’ll need something keeping you tethered so that you can pull yourself out of the car.
  • Once you’re out of the vehicle, let your body take you to the surface. [Don’t worry about going up or down. When you take all of those deep breaths and hold it, its like you’re inflating yourself.
  • All of that should take about 30 seconds.

 A few other things to note

  • If there are children or elderly persons, it is best to help them out first.
  • Glass breaking hammer, headrest, or any other metallic tool can help break the window. If you’re kicking to break the window, do so near the front or along the hinges rather than in the centre
  • Call emergency services as soon as you are out of the water.
  • Like in any other emergency, do not think about taking any valuables with you. Saving life should be your topmost priority.
  • Staying calm is very crucial as panicking can lead to rushed decision-making.

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