LAKE CHARLES, La. (KPLC) - How long do you think you have to escape a car sinking in the water?
According to authorities, you actually have more time than you think you do.
Over the last 15 years, the Calcasieu Parish Sheriff’s Office says they have recovered over 100 vehicles out of water, some of which still had people trapped inside who didn’t know how to escape.
“What people don’t realize is that natural voids and these air pockets in these vehicles allow people, on average, around 1 to 5 minutes sometimes.” Senior Sergeant Ryan Mareno with the CPSO’s Marine Division said. He also instructed the Underwater Criminal Investigation Training for several departments this week.
“If your window is down, you’ll see with the vehicle I put in today, the window will be down, but I will still be able to float 1 to 2 minutes before this car goes under," Mareno said. "And I’ll be out by then and we have safety divers and everything in place, but for your average person, your door will still open. Now, as soon as you open that door, things are going to go very quick.”
At training on Wednesday, a car was sunk in a pond for divers to train with. Mareno sat on the driver’s side while the car was plunged into the water to show how much time it takes to get out of a sinking car.
“You’ll see when we put it in, it will float, and people are in such a panic, but it only takes a few seconds to get our of this car safely,” Mareno said. “I’m a big guy, I’m 6′ 5″ and you’ll notice I’ll be able to get out of this car window very quickly.”
In the demonstration, from the time the car hit the water to when Mareno escaped, only 25 seconds had passed.
It took 1 minute and 55 seconds from impact for the car to begin to quickly fill with water and only 2 minutes and 16 seconds for the car to be fully submerged.
He says the main thing people need to focus on is remaining calm.
“Stay calm, don’t panic, you have time to get out of this vehicle.” Mareno said.
Experts recommend once you remove your seatbelt to go out the window as opposed to trying to open the car door.
Mareno says as long as long as you have battery power, you’ll be able to roll down your windows.
But Lt. Ron Johnson says having tools, like a window punch in your car, can help anyone inside escape.
“When you push this against glass with pressure, always take it in your hand where your pushing with this in the back, so it takes less pressure, this pops and when it pops, the glass shatters the window," Johnson said. "That can help you if your window won’t roll down. A seatbelt cutter. Take that and slide it across the seatbelt. That blade inside takes the seatbelt off in seconds.”
Tools like those can be found for less than 10 dollars.
The experts say always have a plan and remain calm in any emergency situation... as it could be the difference between life and death.