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Three girls were trapped in an SUV that crashed into a pond, and they died. If your car crashed into water, would you know what to do?

Ashley Neufeld, Kyrstin Gemar and Afton Williamson

When we heard about the three North Dakota softball players who were found dead inside a Jeep at the bottom of a rural pond, we were devastated. The girls had made desperate phone calls from inside the car, but help didn't come in time.

The women's SUV was found resting on its wheels Tuesday in about 10 feet of water hidden by tall grass, with the doors and windows closed. They drowned in the vehicle, presumably because they couldn't get out.

No foul play is suspected in the deaths of Kyrstin Gemar, 22, of San Diego; Afton Williamson, 20, of Lake Elsinore, Calif.; and Ashley Neufeld, 21, of Brandon, Manitoba. It was simply a tragic accident.

Last year, four people in a similar car crash called 911 when their SUV crashed into a river and was quickly filling with water. One person died in that accident, and the other three occupants were rescued.

Every four hours, a car goes into the water in the U.S., and 300 people die per year when their vehicles become submerged. If this happened to you, would you know what to do?

Here are the top six safety tips for getting out alive:

1. Try not to panic. It's easier said than done ... but safety experts say staying calm will be your biggest challenge

2. The second the car hits the water, roll the windows down. That's going to make the car flood faster and will help you escape faster. Unlock the doors. Keep the vehicle on.

3. Move quickly -- you may only have ten or fifteen seconds until your vehicle is completely filled with water.

4. If you don't get the windows down in time, you may need to exit through the door. Water pressure makes it impossible to get a car door open when the car is half in and half out of the water. But once you're completely under water, an unlocked door will open. It may feel counterintuitive, but wait until you are completely under water until you try to open the door.

5. Keep your seat belt on even under the water.
That will help keep you in place and give you leverage as you try to find the door and open it.

6. Keep a LifeHammer in your car in case your electrical system short-circuits.
Amazon sells the LifeHammer Original Emergency Hammer here for $14.95 with free shipping.

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4 comments so far | Post a comment now
ashley November 5, 2009, 5:21 AM

My cousin went into the water. She didn’t have automatic windows so she was able to roll them down and escape. That is a fear I have when going over bridges. I wonder if I would have time to get my children out with one still being in a carseat.. Very sad about these girls.

Jen November 5, 2009, 9:04 AM

I think this is great information. I had no clue about half of these tips. I wish there was tips on how to get young children and toddlers out. I wouldn’t want to survive if I left my toddler in their car seat to their death. My heart goes out to these girls family. So sad.

Meeps November 5, 2009, 11:50 AM

I feel so sad for these families, what an awful thing to happen to such young people, and the pup that was with them.

Theresa OConnor November 12, 2009, 12:48 PM

The real reason the girls died is because of powered windows do not work.The car becomes a death trap. Myth busters proved that waiting until the car hits bottom and then to try to open the door does not work. The only way you get out is if you have the roll down windows and then just jump out. The car fills slowly at first and you have time to get out. The girls had time to get their phone and make calls. If they had windows that rolled down they would be a live!!!

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