Tammie Souza demonstrates how to escape from a submerged car - KMSP-TV

Tammie Souza demonstrates how to escape from a submerged car

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

Earlier this year, a car with four teens was pulled from a river in Wilmington. Tragically, they didn't survive. When a car went into a Romeoville retention pond in March, only one of two people got out alive.

Now, imagine your car sinking. What do you do? How do you get out? You only have seconds to react.

"The risk is how fast that vehicle can get submerged and fill up with water. I don't think people realize how fast it can happen," says South Elgin Fire Protection's Assistant Fire Chief Bert Lancaster. "Then they stay in the car thinking it's not a problem. All of a sudden the water is to their chest level, how do I get out?"

Assistant Fire Chief Lancaster guided me through an underwater escape from a locked car.

Because it will sink in less than 5 minutes, I will need to need to stay calm, follow a simple plan, act quickly and use a window punch.

City Auto Wrecking in Aurora provided us with the environmentally friendly scrap car that she drove into the lake and dive master Dan Howard briefed me on the emergency rescue plan. It seems simple enough, but I'm nervous and suddenly, I'm rolling down the ramp.

Fire department rescue divers from New Lenox, Palos Heights and Streamwood surround my car in the water.

I float for about 30 seconds and then water begins to pour in. It reaches my lap quickly. I feel claustrophobic. Only 90 seconds have passed and the water outside the car is rising up the window. I'm sinking fast.

I remember the steps Lancaster gave me.

"Take your seat belt off, get that window lowered down as quickly as possible because the electric can fail," he told me.

But my car has no power, the windows won't open and I'm dependent on that tiny punch to break the side window and escape. I'm wearing street clothes--not a dive suit--and the water is cold. It's only been two minutes.

As water rushes in, I pull myself out. The car is gone in less than 2 seconds.

I can tell you I was nervous, the water was cold, but when I punched the window I was able to find my way out of that very small window. You can do this too if you have a plan and you want to get out alive and I had a very good plan.

My team helped me get out alive, but it's important to know that just 18 inches of water will float a car. Power quits before 60 seconds, leaving windows and doors locked and the car can sink in less than three minutes, leaving you with little time.

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