South Florida firefighters share tips on escaping from vehicle submerged in water

MIAMI BEACH, FLA. (WSVN) - South Florida first responders are sharing several tips to escape from a vehicle submerged in water following the deaths of two women when a car fell off a Fisher Island ferry.

Geannys Pantoja, the assistant manager at Used Auto Parks in Opa-Locka, said vehicles going underwater happens occasionally throughout the community.

“Maybe two or three a month now,” Pantoja said. “A lot of people just lose their cars unloading boats and Jet Skis nowadays.”

Emma Afra, 63, and 75-year-old Viviane Brahms were killed on Tuesday when their Mercedes-Benz rolled off the front of the Pelican ferry boat into Government Cut near Fisher Island.

According to the Miami Herald, both women were found in the back of the car embracing one another after possibly hitting the accelerator.

The Fisher Island Community Association released a statement that read in part, “We are looking at ways to improve our ferry operations, working closely with our marine engineers, architects and designers to find ways to help ensure a calamity like this is never repeated.”

Hialeah Fire Rescue District Chief David Rodriguez showed several ways to get out if a car ends up in water, and he said having a plan may help people control some of the panic associated with the situation.

“There are canals, waterways, lakes all around our major thoroughfares,” Rodriguez said. “The number one thing in that situation when a car goes into a body of water — canal, lake or whatever — is the panic.”

If one ends up in the water while in their vehicle, Rodriguez said unbuckling the seat belt and unrolling the windows are the first things people should do.

“Your electrical components will continue to work, for a short amount of time, but they still work,” Rodriguez said.

If that does not work, then a tool, such as a spring-loaded window smasher or one that is shaped like a hammer, could be used to break the vehicle’s window.

“We’re going to go ahead and use the spring-loaded center punch, bottom corner of the glass,” Rodriguez said as he showed 7News cameras where to aim the tool. “The glass is now broken. At this point, you’re going to have to use the back of your hand and try to sweep all the glass out of the area.”

The window may not break on the first try, but first responders said it is important to keep trying.

“You want to make sure that it’s the glass on the side. Do not try to break the windshield,” Rodriguez said.

First responders also said to make sure the tools are up to date because the windows in vehicles change over time, and the tools people may have bought around 10 years ago may not work on a window today because the glass is thicker.

People are advised to do their research on the tool before purchasing one.

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