“I Don’t Know Why You Are Freaking Out”: Woman Drowns As 911 Operator Tells Her To Calm Down

In a horrific recording, a 911 dispatcher dismisses the cries of panic by Debbie Stevens, 47, (above) as her car fills with water in Fort Smith Arkansas. At one point, the dispatcher, Donna Reneau, says “I don’t know why you are freaking out.” Stevens explained that she was afraid of dying and kept apologizing. She later drowned in the car waiting for rescue.

Stevens was delivering newspapers when she was hit by floodwaters. The call to 911 showed a panicked driver and a less than sympathetic dispatcher, though Reneau (left) may have believed that this was just a case of a trapped car rather than a car filling with water.

Stevens: “Please help me. I don’t wanna die.”
Dispatcher: “You’re not going to die – hold on for a minute.”
Stevens: “Well I need um, I’m scared. I’m sorry.”
Dispatcher: “I understand that you’re scared but there’s nothing I can do sitting in a chair so you’re going to have to hold on and I’m going to send you somebody, OK?”

Stevens was on the phone with 911 for about 24 minutes”

Dispatcher: “You’re not going to die. I don’t know why you’re freaking out. It’s OK. I know the water level is high.”
Stevens: “I’m scared. I’m sorry.”
Dispatcher: “I understand that but you freaking out – doing nothing but losing your oxygen up in there so calm down.”
Stevens: “When are they going to be here?”
Dispatcher: “As soon as they get there.”

In one of the most chilling portions of the tape, the dispatcher chastises Stevens:

Stevens: “I’m scared. I’ve never had anything like this happen to me before.”
Dispatcher: “This will teach you next time don’t drive in the water.”
Stevens: “Couldn’t see it ma’am. I’m sorry or I wouldn’t have.”
Dispatcher: “I don’t see how you didn’t see it. You had to go right over it, so.”

Although Police and firefighters arrived about 12 minutes after Stevens’ call, it took more than an hour for them to reach and extract her. By that time, she was dead.

Assuming that there was no negligence in the rescue at the scene, this case could present a question of liability over the dispatcher’s role under a claim of the infliction of emotional distress. It would however not make for a strong such case. It appears that the dispatcher did get the rescuers to the scene and that they arrived relatively quickly. The words of the dispatcher, while shocking, was tragically not the cause of the greater distress. That was the water.

The dispatcher has resigned.

Danny Baker, the interim police chief, correctly said that the dispatcher “did nothing criminally wrong.” However, he then curiously added “I’m not even going to go so far as saying she violated policy.” I would hope lecturing and mocking a woman in distress would violate some policy somewhere in the Fort Smith police department.

266 thoughts on ““I Don’t Know Why You Are Freaking Out”: Woman Drowns As 911 Operator Tells Her To Calm Down”

  1. Empathy-free individuals need to be fired. She was on her way out anyway so that part is done. In saner times, she’d be shamed and humiliated for her callous attitude to a trapped soul but, alas, we’re enlightened so much that even virulent anti-social behavior doesn’t violate “policy.” I think Hobbes’ State of Nature to Civilization progression is cyclical rather than linear.

    1. Here’s the text of the article:

      By Dr. Gary Benfield

      Posted Mar 23, 2009 at 9:00 PM

      In the wake of Natasha Richardson’s tragic death after she fell on a beginner’s ski slope at the Mont Tremblant resort in Quebec, Canada, there has been lots of second guessing about the care she received and whether her death might have been prevented. We’re not going to add to the debate in this column. As is often the case when a VIP dies under unusual circumstances, there’s more than enough heat and finger-pointing to go around. Ironically, the fact that she was a VIP probably played a significant role in her untimely death.

      “How could that be?” You ask. “Don’t the rich and famous get better care than the rest of us?”

      Not necessarily. Sure, they often go to the front of the line. And hospitals often provide them with special accommodations, including a suite of rooms far-removed from the regular wards in the hospital. And they may have private duty nurses who, incidentally, haven’t taken care of a really sick patient in years. This kind of special treatment may actually result in substandard care when a patient has suffered an injury and her condition is unstable, leading to the term the VIP syndrome.

      One aspect of the VIP syndrome has to do with the demands such patients make on those around them. In Natasha Richardson’s case, we’re told she refused treatment, at least initially. Thus, the first ambulance to arrive to take her to the local hospital was sent away, wasting valuable time. Of course, no one has the right to force a patient to accept medical treatment. It was her right to deal with the aftermath of her fall in her own way.

      But, when you are a VIP, you are used to getting your own way, even though, following a fall, you may not be the best person to evaluate your injury.

      Jim Tatum was the legendary coach of the Maryland Terrapins football team from 1947 to 1955, the year I arrived on campus as a 17-year-old freshman. During his tenure at Maryland, his football teams won more than 80 percent of their games. In 1951, the Terrapins went undefeated and upset top-ranked Tennessee in the 1952 Sugar Bowl. In 1956, “Big Jim” (He was 6-3 and weighed 230 pounds) was hired away from Maryland by his alma mater, the University of North Carolina, to resurrect the football program at UNC. Three years later, in July of 1959, Tatum fell ill and was hospitalized. Of course, he received VIP treatment leading up to and including his time in the hospital. Only his personal doctor and his family were allowed access to his private room, far removed from the routine questions and physical exams normally performed by medical students and residents. Days later, he died at the age of 46 from an undiagnosed disease.

      At autopsy, the pathologist discovered that the cause of death was Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, an infectious disease that annually affects more people in North Carolina than any other state. (To add further irony, the world’s experts about Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever at the time, those doctors who had discovered the cause of the disease and helped develop the antibiotic treatment, were located at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore.) Why was Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever overlooked and untreated in Big Jim’s case? Because he also suffered from the VIP syndrome, receiving substandard care since he was special. Most likely, a seven to 10 day course of intravenous Chloromycetin — the antibiotic of choice at the time — would have cured his illness. But no one thought to consider the disease or the treatment since those who often think of such things — the medical students and residents — were excluded from his care.

      According to the New York City medical examiner’s office, the cause of Natasha Richardson’s death was an epidural hematoma, a blood clot that forms outside the brain, between the dura, which is the thick membrane that surrounds the brain and is normally closely attached to the undersurface of the skull, and the skull. Why does bleeding occur in this particular area?

      Such a location for hemorrhage is virtually always the result of trauma that causes a skull fracture and resultant tear in the middle meningeal artery that runs within the dura. As the bleeding continues, it accumulates between the dura and the skull, peeling the dura away from the undersurface of the skull and putting pressure on the underlying brain. Clinically, patients can be lucid for several hours between the moment of trauma and the development of neurologic signs, such as a headache. Or an epidural hematoma may expand rapidly, creating a neurosurgical emergency requiring prompt drainage of the clot.

      If Natasha Richardson had received prompt medical attention, resulting in an accurate diagnosis of her condition and prompt drainage of the clot, might the outcome have been different? Obviously, we’ll never know. Just remember, it’s possible that even if everything had gone perfectly, including immediate diagnosis and treatment, she might have survived, been left severely brain damaged, and occupied a bed in a nursing home for the rest of her life, unable to walk, talk or feed herself, a mere shadow of the vibrant and talented human being that she once was.

      1. Interesting, another potential systemic failure has been written about and anonymous was so angry that anyone even mentioned a systemic failure.

        1. “…and anonymous was so angry that anyone even mentioned a systemic failure,” -Allan

          Not this anonymous commenter. Nor did I notice or sense any “anger” from the other people commenting anonymously.

          1. You probably missed the anger. Since you haven’t protected your identity in any fashion how do we know you aren’t that same anonymous? We don’t.

      2. Dr Gary Benfield:

        “If Natasha Richardson had received prompt medical attention, resulting in an accurate diagnosis of her condition and prompt drainage of the clot, might the outcome have been different? Obviously, we’ll never know. Just remember, it’s possible that even if everything had gone perfectly, including immediate diagnosis and treatment, she might have survived, been left severely brain damaged, and occupied a bed in a nursing home for the rest of her life, unable to walk, talk or feed herself, a mere shadow of the vibrant and talented human being that she once was.”

        1. Nothing is certain in life but when there is a chance of living vs dying one takes the best chance possible to live so statements like this are meaningless if one is discussing different treatment plans.

          1. Ah, but “life” and “living” at what cost? Some people would rather not live in a compromised state. Was there already irreversible brain damage by the time she reached the first hospital? We don’t know.

            From Allan’s perspective, though, life in a persistent vegetative state is better than no life at all, it would seem.

            1. It would seem, anonymous, that you have no knowledge at all. The idea was to release the pressure in her head before she was brain dead or dead. You apparently missed that in the discussion but no matter. We all recognize your severe limitations.

              What we do know is that after 4 hours Natasha was brain dead and sometime before that she was salvageable. The thing required to prevent brain death was to release the pressure but anonymous you are saying that since she could become brain dead we shouldn’t take the chance that we could save both her life and her brain.

              I don’t know where people like you get such stupid ideas.

              1. “Dr. Langer added that if a patient undergoes surgery — ideally within an hour of the injury — to relieve the pressure, remove the clot and stop the bleeding, the patient can recover.”

                — Dr. David J. Langer, the director of cerebrovascular neurosurgery at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital, Beth Israel Medical Center and Long Island College Hospital

                (NR sustained her head injury shortly before 12:45 and the ambulance that finally transported her to Ste.-Agathe didn’t leave Mont Tremblant until ~3:45 — a full 3 hours after her fall.

                She deteriorated further during the ~38 minute trip to Ste.-Agathe.

                As we know, she refused to be treated, initially, delaying any medical intervention by 3 hours.

                At what point did brain death begin? We don’t know.

                Would Allan have whipped out a drill at Mont Tremblant?

                Is Allan interested in morbidity — or just mortality?

                Would it be okay with Allan if NR had survived with a certain amount of brain damage?)

                https://joandidion.wordpress.com/2009/03/20/new-details-emerge-about-natasha-richardsons-death-changing-perception/

                A brain surgeon not involved in her treatment, Dr. David J. Langer, the director of cerebrovascular neurosurgery at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital, Beth Israel Medical Center and Long Island College Hospital, said that a clot can develop from the bleeding following such a trauma. …

                Dr. Langer added that if a patient undergoes surgery — ideally within an hour of the injury — to relieve the pressure, remove the clot and stop the bleeding, the patient can recover.

                In Quebec, there are several possible channels of investigation into the circumstances surrounding Ms. Richardson’s accident and the medical treatment she received.

                Marie-Eve Bédard, a spokeswoman for the minister of health and social services, said that Ms. Richardson’s family could ask the commissioners at either hospital that treated her to review the case. If the family is not satisfied, or if they believe that there were significant medical errors, it can then file a misconduct complaint with the province’s medical licensing body .

                As for legal action against the Mont Tremblant resort, the provincial coroner’s office can order a staff investigation or hold a public inquiry. Although the coroner’s office could not be reached for comment, a spokeswoman for the minister of public security, whose office oversees the coroner, said Thursday that she was not aware of any such action.

                1. It is a sad thing when a person has enough verbal skills to argue but none of the other skills that make an intelligent person. If anonymous lacked some of these verbal skills he would have to put more effort into analysis, thinking, researching and all the other important things needed when one is drawing conclusions or trying to make intelligent decisions. Sometimes verbal facility permits people to sound smart but they only sound smart until they are placed head to head with the facts and suddenly have to do something they don’t do, think. Then they start to look dumb.

                  That is your problem. You think you can win an argument based solely on verbal skills. Not here.

                  ““Dr. Langer added that if a patient undergoes surgery — ideally within an hour of the injury — to relieve the pressure, remove the clot and stop the bleeding, the patient can recover.”

                  What Langer has just told you is that time of the essence and one needs to use the time wisely. That did not happen? No. He said ideally within an hour which means you don’t have time for stops to “stabilize the patient” in a facility that can’t treat the problem. Therefore the system fault is that the patient wasn’t taken to a place where the surgical procedure could be performed.

                  “Would Allan have whipped out a drill at Mont Tremblant?”

                  Was that the only alternative? No. The question should have been were there any neurosurgeons closer to the scene and if there wasn’t there should have been contact with a hospital center. Cellphones are plentiful. The center could find the closest place and get her there without the delays they had.That is what happened in Australia and that is what helped save the child’s life.

                  Doctor Langer also said: ““It can be quite dramatic,” Dr. Langer said. “It’s one of the most acute neurological emergencies. It’s one of the few times where it’s life or death, where you can truly save somebody’s life, or they die if you don’t get to them.” That was the whole point “getting to them” before they died and that means no time can be wasted and it appears alot of time was wasted.

                  “Is Allan interested in morbidity — or just mortality?”

                  It doesn’t matter what anyone is interested in. No one knows what will happen so one does the best they can and then deals with the other issues later.

                  “Would it be okay with Allan if NR had survived with a certain amount of brain damage?”

                  What a stupid question. One is trying to save a life and doesn’t know how much damage has occurred. I guess you would have preferred her to die so you wouldn’t have to answer the question. That is asinine.

                    1. Allan’s a complete idiot and a nutter, to boot.

                      He repeats the same nonsense over and over and over and over…

                    2. Anonymous, along with being a liar you are a wannabe killer via the process of you determining when life should end.

                  1. “Would Allan have whipped out a drill at Mount Tremblant?”
                    Dr. Blowhard would have immediately diagnosed the nature of Richardson’s injury, skipped elements like imaging and stabilization, be unconcerned about hyponatremia, and used either a drill (or the sharp edge of a ski poles) to save Richardson.
                    If I ever take up skiing again, I’ll steer clear of any slope Dr. Blowhard might be at.

                    1. You are pretty stupid anonymous. I am calling for appropriate medical treatment which means that a 4 hour delay was inappropriate in this case proven by the fact that the patient died. Would she have lived if she arrived to the appropriate hospital in one minute? No, but at least they would have the ability to provide appropriate treatment.

                      By now you have read the fact that you lied about Black’s quote. That quote had nothing to do with what happened after the ambulance went home the first time.

                      Dealing with liars is difficult because one has to search for the truth that should have been provided by you but wasn’t.

                      Keep lying anonymous.That certainly demonstrates a sickness you accuse others of having.

                    2. Dr. Allan Blowhard missed the significance of his colleague’s statement. Also, he now dates that directly quoting Dr. Black is “lying” about what Dr. Black actually said.
                      I should have known that the opinion of the head of neurosurgery at a major hospital could not influence Dr. Blowhard’s expert opinion.
                      Patients who are appropriately treated do sometimes die, so the fact that Ms. Richardson unfortunately died is not evidence of “multiple failures”. Even an infallible expert like our Dr. Blowhard should know that.

                    3. Face it anonymous. You are a liar. The question asked of Dr. Black had nothing to do with the care once the ambulance picked Richardson up. The question was: ” “Did the fact that she delayed treatment for an hour put her at further risk?” That was the hour she spent after sending the first ambulance away. You lied and told us it had to do with her care.

                      The opinion of Dr. Black had nothing to do with her treatment but you can keep on lying and neglect what the question was and what the answer was referring to.

                    4. I hope that Dr. Blowhard addresses a medical convention of neurosurgeons and informs them that their recommended procedures, contraindications, etc. are all wrong.
                      It’d be a shame if he limited just sharing his vast store of knowledge here on this blog.

                    5. “addresses a medical convention of neurosurgeons and informs them that their recommended procedures, contraindications, etc. are all wrong.”

                      Anonymous, I would not be the one to address such a convention, but if you were addressing them they should be warned that you are a liar and that when you quote you do so completely out of context. Of course any convention listening to you would know that you were totally ignorant and worthless. I don’t think they would disagree with anything I said.

                      Paraphrasing what you told us about what the neurosurgeon said.

                      According to you Dr. Black said the entire care of Natasha was appropriate. That was an outright lie. According to the primary source Dr. Black did not talk about Natasha’s almost 4 hour trip to get to a facility that could actually treat her.

                      Time to change you alias again as you are as much a liar under this alias as you were under the last one.

                    6. Anonymous (another one) said:

                      “I hope that Dr. Blowhard addresses a medical convention of neurosurgeons and informs them that their recommended procedures, contraindications, etc. are all wrong. It’d be a shame if he limited just sharing his vast store of knowledge here on this blog.”

                      Ditto, and he shouldn’t waste any time.

                      Maybe Dr. Blowhard could do a TED talk, as well.

                    7. “Ditto, and he shouldn’t waste any time.”

                      Anonymous, everyone on this blog already knows that you are quite dim. You don’t have to keep proving it. I like however, how you stand by a proven liar with the same alias. That makes you more like Diane.

                    8. “You’re an embarrassment, Allan. To yourself and others.”

                      No substance to anything you say but you do act like a dummy. All one has to do is look back at the comments and see what you have said and agreed to. Lies and stupidity.

  2. A Concerning Trend: Flooding Deaths Have Increased in the U.S. the Last Few Years

    By Linda LamNovember 08 2018 02:30 PM ESTweather.com

    https://weather.com/safety/floods/news/2018-11-08-flood-related-deaths-increasing-in-united-

    “In the last 30 years, an average of 86 people have died in floods each year. In the last 10 years, that annual average increased to 95. In the last three years, since 2015, more than 100 people have died annually because of floods.”

  3. FYI – more and more cars are going from tempered side windows ( some just the front, some , all) to laminated side windows ( front windshields are laminated).

    It is extremely difficult , if impossible to break the laminated windows with one of the safety hammers on the market.
    And, the spring loaded type of escape ( window breaking) hammer is a better choice if you choose to buy one.

    The decision to use the laminated glass product is for safety reasons. Tempered glass will break into shards, laminated will not ( will stay intact). More people have died from being ejected from blown out windows in crashes ( tempered glass) vs. those who encounter entrapment in a flooded car.

    see:
    http://www.cnet.com/roadshow/news/aaa-laminated-glass-emergency-escape-study/

    AAA has a listing of all car models that have laminated side windows.

  4. I knew a young man who escaped from his vehicle upside down in the river. He is in the state penal system now.

    1. I read of a young man who escaped from his vehicle upside down in the water and became a United States Senator. He left Mary Jane Kopechne behind to die, though.

      1. Rachelle………Left leaning Smithsonian tv channel has a program called Aerial America. I used to watch it but got so tired of hearing about all the bad things conservatives had done in each of the 50 states that they had been filmed from the air! Every one of them!
        For instance, a portion of the aerial program featuring Wyoming, focused on the murder of homosexual Mathew Shepherd years agp by conservative homophobes, etc. The program is supposed to be showing the physical beauty of each state, I thought!
        Well guess what, when they got to the state of Mass, NOTHING was said about Ted K and Chappaquidick because of course, he was a Democrat. Unbelievable!

        1. Too bad about Mathew Shepherd. However, the basis for the horrible crime against him as portrayed in the media and Congress was false. He was killed because of a drug deal, not because he was gay. His being gay had nothing to do with it. The untrue accusation against conservatives will continue as long as it fits the left’s agenda. They really seem to have no character or simple honesty.

            1. It’s always a good idea to fact-check Cindy — whose facts are not always “the actual facts”…, though she pretends they are.

              When corrected, Cindy blames her errors on someone else — in this case, “a gay Dem state legislator” who will remain unnamed, of course.

              Cindy says, “I hear stuff and I just pass it along… It might be true.”

            2. Crystal Meth killed Matthew Shephard and the Left made it worse by covering his addiction of crystal and pivoting to a more useful narrative. The Left always lie…..always

              From Dan Savage’s website, a gay activist well known in political circles

              ###

              https://www.thestranger.com/slog/2018/10/26/34543412/matthew-shepard-is-the-worlds-most-famous-gay-hate-crime-victim-but-was-he-really-killed-for-being-gay

              After Shepard’s body was found, a couple of men in the local gay community contacted the press as well as gay rights groups, who connected the murder to the state legislature’s recent failure to pass hate crime legislation. The story that this was a hate crime began to spread, and in the days immediately following his death, a vigil was held for Shepard on the steps of the U.S. Capitol. Celebrities like Ellen DeGeneres, Ted Kennedy, Barbra Streisand, Elton John, and Madonna all got involved, and his funeral was attended by over 1,000 people, with many of Shepard’s friends dressed as angels.

              Stephen Jimenez’s book was not universally well-received by the gay community or the Matthew Shepard Foundation, which maintain that his murder was fueled by anti-gay bias. ThinkProgress said it “Doesn’t prove anything, other than the size of Stephen Jimenez’s ego,” although, as Julie Bindel notes, Ted Henson, Shepard’s longtime friend and lover, told her that The Book of Matt is “nothing more than the truth.” Still, the reasons for the blacklash seem fairly obvious: Matthew Shepard has become more than a 21-year-old Wyoming college kid; he’s become a martyr. What’s more, plenty of people, especially gay people, thought this book would hurt the cause, and they blamed Stephen Jimenez.

              So why write this book, especially when it upended a narrative nearly everyone had accepted as fact? “As a gay man who came out in the 1970s, marched in the first National Gay March on Washington, and then survived the plague years of the AIDS epidemic, I felt a moral obligation to not let Matthew’s tragedy be in vain,” Jimenez told me in an email. “Yes, the popular narrative served a purpose, but it’s only ONE thread of a bigger, richer, more challenging story whose lessons we have barely learned. To avoid topics of addiction, including how crystal meth ravaged the queer community (and Matt’s life), is not helpful to anyone.”

              1. Anonymous in blue @ 7:27 lies: “The Left always lie…..always”

                This undercuts anything that Anonymous (in blue @ 7:27) is trying to communicate.

                And it makes Anonymous in blue seem hysterical and crazy.

          1. Local law enforcement chuckled at Stephen Jimenez portrayal of Shepherd as middle-management in street-drugs distributorship.

            Shepherd and his family had left Wyoming in 1994. He’d returned about six weeks before he was killed. He was new to Laramie, having lived in Caspar when he was younger. His assailants were from a completely different social world than the professional-managerial bourgeois one in which he was raised and a completely different one than the campus matrix in which he was immersing himself. The notion he had some sort of well-established association with Aaron McKinney doesn’t pass the chuckle test, so Jimenez’ attempts a daisy chain to leave the impression they must have been acquainted in Fort Collins.

            It was a robbery gone bad, quite possibly fueled by methamphetamine use on the part of the assailants. You can’t make much of a name for yourself reporting the obvious.

  5. “How to Escape From a Car in Water”

    By Malia Wollan
    April 14, 2017

    https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/14/magazine/how-to-escape-from-a-car-in-water.html

    “If you get on your phone and call your parents, or your sister, or 911, you will die,” says Robert May, a 21-year veteran of the Indiana State Police Underwater Search and Recovery Team. No one else will arrive in time; you have to save yourself.

    Move quickly. Minivans might float for as long as 10 minutes, but the odds of survival are highest if you get out in the first 60 seconds. In a submersion study from the University of Manitoba, three passengers were able to exit with a child mannequin through a single driver-side window in just 53 seconds.

    Unbuckle your seatbelt, lower your window and climb out, ideally onto the roof of the vehicle. If there are children present, attend to them first. Unfasten them from the back seat, pull them into the front and push them out your window, oldest ones first. In May’s experience, electric car windows will continue to work after impact with water (which he describes as soft, “like landing on a pillow”). Still, keep a small glass-breaking tool on your key ring or hanging from the rearview mirror, just in case.

    Don’t open the door; water will flood in. Once full of water, the vehicle will sink fast. In one study, a 65-passenger bus sank in nine seconds. Vehicle submersions have one of the highest fatality rates of any type of single-motor-vehicle incidents, responsible for some 400 deaths a year in North America.

    Dealing with the aftermath of drownings has made May an evangelist of sorts: He has written how-to guides, trained 911 dispatchers and even gone into the water in a car himself to test escape protocols. “Escape while the car is floating on the surface,” says May, who spent much of his career recovering vehicles, and sometimes their dead occupants, from the bottom of rivers, lakes, flooded roads, reservoirs and frozen retention ponds. Sometimes, he says, victims die in water shallow enough to stand in. Once, he reached into a car to recover four skeletons, and a burst of little catfish swam out. He hasn’t eaten one since.

    After you get on top of your car, figure out if it makes sense to stay put or swim for dry ground. From there, call for help. Just get out first, May says, or “your car becomes your coffin.”

    1. ‘you get on top of your car, figure out if it makes sense to stay put or swim for dry ground. From there, call for help. Just get out first, May says, or “your car becomes your coffin.”’

      Excerpt from the linked article:

      May, who spent much of his career recovering vehicles, and sometimes their dead occupants, from the bottom of rivers, lakes, flooded roads, reservoirs and frozen retention ponds. Sometimes, he says, victims die in water shallow enough to stand in. Once, he reached into a car to recover four skeletons, and a burst of little catfish swam out. He hasn’t eaten one since.

      After you get on top of your car, figure out if it makes sense to stay put or swim for dry ground. From there, call for help. Just get out first, May says, or “your car becomes your coffin.”

    2. Anonymous – does he recommend a tool for the key chain or rearview mirror? I have never seen one advertised.

      1. Paul – would a tool on a key chain have enough weight to break a vehicle window? I doubt it. And you don’t really need a special tool, although I have seen them. Just a plain old hammer in the map pocket on the inside of the driver’s side door, next to the driver’s seat will do it.

        1. It depends on the hardness of the material. There are videos online showing how to break a car window with a sparkplug chip which is very hard ceramic.

      2. Here’s one. There are others.

        GINGYI Car Escape Tool with Seatbelt Cutter, Ultra-Portable Keychain …

        https://www.amazon.com › GINGYI-Seatbelt-Ultra-Portable-Keychain-Un…

        Rating: 4.3 – ‎7 reviews

        Buy GINGYI Car Escape Tool with Seatbelt Cutter, Ultra-Portable Keychain Car Window Breaker Perfect Work Underwater: Escape Tools

      3. I’ve seen such devices–they have a strong spring that propels a sharp point that breaks the window. You just hold it on the glass and push a button. Also, your vehicle’s electrical system could short out when you plunge into water, so you might not be able to get the window down. Your cell phone would short out too if it gets wet, so call 911 immediately .

    3. If you are in a river, don’t stand up because if the water pushes you over and your foot gets stuck one can drown in shallow water. When rafting I kept my shoes loose. When kayacking (and rafting) if you fall out go feet first, Better to break a leg than break a head.

      1. Alan…..great advice. When I kayaked I always felt fairly safe, but I never rode rapids, or anything.
        What I miss the most is sculling (single). Being on a body of water is so good for your soul….. just hearing that one of a kind sound of oars sweeping/scull gliding across the water.
        It’s hard to believe that same body of water, in different weather conditions, can threaten to take your life.

        1. Cindy Bragg – I have only been white water rafting once, but it was a lot of fun. Cold, but fun. 🙂

          1. Paul C…….oh, I’ll bet that was so fun!
            I still have 2 kayaks……still dreaming I’ll be able to use them again someday.
            Maybe when I’m 80? LOL Gosh, do I miss the water!!
            Is there a boat “lift” or something for handicapped people? That would help one get into a scull or kayak?
            Just wondering….

            1. Cindy Bragg – I have a paraplegic friend who rafted the Grand Canyon. Not sure but I think they just lifted him in and out of the raft. Not sure about kayaking.

            2. Cindy, there are all sorts of small craft so it depends on the handicap and what type of water one will be travelling on. Paul’s way is a bit extreme except for those that are younger and in good physical condition.

              You could consider a small sail like a small trimeran good for two, and easy to handle on flat water. I have used that type of craft in the Gulf of Mexico. The space is not defined.

                1. Cindy Bragg – couple of steroid shots and you are good to go for a couple of months, at least for the pain. 😉

                  1. Paul C….. i appreciate the information!
                    I will see my new physician next week……
                    Baker’s cysts behind the knees, arthritic joints…I got it all….LOL
                    Old age is not for sissies.

        2. Cindy, I went down a class 5 in Jasper Canada in a 2 man kayak with a guide dressed from head to toe because the river was too dangerous for a casual kayaker. That was not calm and perhaps one of the most exciting things I have done since the kayak went over over the rapids and then traveled underwater for a distance. I’ve also travelled on a body of water mostly calm with stops for a beer. I prefer the latter.

          1. Allan….how exciting! Yes …I would prefer the latter, too (:
            The sail boat was a good idea…..I just never caught on to sailing, though. But hubby loves it.
            I like oars!

            1. What is your love of oars? The very small sail craft place you right on top of the water. I used to like Sunfish, a board, a centerboard, a tiller and a sail, as simple as one can get. You can get multiple kayak configurations some with pedals etc.

              1. Allan…..thank you.Sounds definitely like an option, but we do not have a marina anywhere in our county. And we have a huge lake exactly one mile, as the crow flies, from our back door. There’s a campground there, where we take our camper, but no marina. I know we don’t want a sail boat kept at the house.
                But I do like the workout you get with oars, also.

              1. Thanks Paul.. When we first got married, hubby wanted to teach me to sail at the Baylor Marina in Waco ( he was in Baylor Law School).. I was horrible at it and it drove him crazy! That almost ended our marriage of 4 weeks….LOL
                After 48 yrs, maybe our marriage is safe, if we were to try it again? 😁

                  1. Allan…..no, I’m just a klutz……….also I remember from that honeymoon excursion that I never felt in control of the boat, and I do (did) feel control in a scull and a kayak. Being in control of the ” vehicle” is very important for me.
                    I’ll research the Sunfish, just for fun.

                1. Cindy Bragg – I tried to teach my wife to swim, I know that can work. I thought she was trying to drown just to make me look bad. Get a neutral party to teach you, less pressure.

    4. That’s a good article.

      If there is any good to come out if this tragedy, it might be raising public awareness of what to do if trapped in a car in rising water.

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