vehicle you are riding in ever ends up in the water, follow the
procedures below (taken from the
Michigan State Police
S.T.A.R. project) for the best chance of survival.
the seat belt
2. Roll down the window
3. Exit the vehicle (before it sinks).
The S. T.
A. R. project demonstrated that most cars, depending on condition and
damage caused by the accident, will float for 1 to 4 minutes. This
should give someone enough time to escape. It is advised to carry a
punch tool in your vehicle to break the side window in the event it
will not roll down in an emergency. Front and rear windows are much
harder to breach than side windows. Seatbelt
cutters such as a Z knife can also be employed to quickly cut
through the thick nylon belt without risk of cutting the trapped
occupant. A public safety video on this subject can be acquired
through the contact below:
Media Productions Center
Michigan State Police
7426 N. Canal Road
Lansing, MI 48913
Truck & Crane Service donated a crane
and two operators to the Ventura County Sheriff's SAR Dive Team for
the morning, enabling the team to conduct this important training
session. Oxnard Towing played an instrumental role by providing a
clean car to submerge and donating towing services to and away from
the harbor. Without the assistance of these two companies, this
training could not have occurred.
Port Hueneme Harbormaster was on hand to make sure all went as
Foreman Paul Thomas from T&T Truck and Crane Service directed the crane
operations as the car was lowered into the harbor. Both Paul and crane
operator Raymond Mullins did a very professional job with the heavy
equipment, submerging the car in the harbor and lifting it back out after
the training was completed.
the car was fully submerged and settled on the bottom, divers entered
the water. Teams of two were rotated through two different stations.
First, a team did a straight-line search under the dock. When that
exercise was finished, they surfaced and proceed on to the vehicle
station. Teams held position at the ascending/descending line until
the team ahead had completed their dive. Underwater, divers conducted
a survey around the car, then took turns entering the vehicle while a
buddy stood by outside for safety. Inside the car, divers got the feel
for how they would deal with seat belts trapping a victim and how a
victim could be removed from this type of environment. Tools and
techniques for breaking windows were also presented.
finishing both stations, divers simply climbed up the ladder to the
pier. (The climb was tougher than it looks!)
with a vehicle in the water has been an active topic on public safety
forums. Below are a couple of responses (reprinted
with permission) detailing the procedures dive
teams use when called out
for such a situation:
treat all vehicles in the water as crime scenes.
would located where the vehicle entered the water and treat that
area as a crime scene.
Swim around and note any damage or other interesting things. Also
get the license plate number if you can or take the plate to the
surface. Check for stolen, NCIC information. Identify the registered
owner and attempt to contact them. Send a Police Officer by the
registered owners home to gain information. Information gained in
this step should help you identify how you are to proceed with the
Bottom search for minimum of 10 feet around the vehicle, more if
Take measurements of the scene for your diagram, including the four
corners of the vehicle. Photographs/video if vis will allow.
Recover the vehicle by either lift bags (less damaging to vehicle
and evidence) or wrecker hook and pull.
Once on land let Crime Scene Technicians take over the processing.
Depending our how your Team is set up, assist investigating officers
in the investigation or clean up, write your report and go home.
the short version, depending on the situation it could be more
Officer Ronny Phillips
Galveston Police Department
General Rules of
Evidence: Nothing in the underwater or topside scene is touched,
disturbed, or moved until documented with photographs, video,
measurements, and sketches, with accompanying notes and reports as
necessary. Photographs, video, and sketches need a scale reference.
Each incident will be preserved and processed as a crime scene
during the entire operation, or until the requesting law enforcement
agency determines otherwise.
Factor: The benefits of the evidence and recovery operation is
balanced against the risk of the dive operation to determine if the
operation is performed. Usual hazards include petroleum products in
the water, entanglements from the vehicle, fishing lines, debris,
unstable vehicle positioning, black water visibility, contaminated
water, wildlife, and currents. Since each operation is unique, a
risk benefit factor is performed at each scene to determine if
divers will enter the water. Information obtained in the initial
briefing from the requesting law enforcement agency is also included
in the risk benefit factor.
Initial Survey: If
the risk benefit factor is in favor of a dive operation, an initial
dive is performed by a minimum of two divers to determine the
position and condition of the vehicle, the number of victims and
location of victims in the immediate vicinity, and the overall
condition and positioning of the underwater scene. While following
the general rules of evidence, divers survey the scene and report
their findings topside to help plan the evidence and recovery
and Documentation: Each diver will have a specific assignment during
the evidence collection phase of the operation. Assignments will be
determined by the on scene commander according to the skill level of
the diver, special qualifications, equipment, and needs of the
operation. Each part of the vehicle will be examined underwater to
determine; the identity of the vehicle, the existence of damage and
potential evidence, the location and positioning of victims, and the
positioning of vehicle mechanical and electrical functions.
Before the recovery
phase of the operation can begin, the underwater phase of the
evidence collection must be complete. Evidence that cannot be
recovered until the vehicle is moved, must be documented in place by
photographs and sketches.
Each diver will
report his or her findings and deliver collected evidence to topside
personnel for collection and documentation. The divers will note the
location and recovery depth of each item of evidence. Evidence will
be collected in compliance with Standard Operating Procedures
established by SMART for the processing and handling of evidence.
Evidence to be
victim will be processed and recovered as stated in SOP for victim
Water and bottom
sample- (Even if victims are not recovered)
and effects which are, or possibly related, to the incident being
Vehicle parts and
accessories which have detached from the vehicle.
and effects inside the vehicle which may be lost when the vehicle is
Articles related to
the investigated incident which were found with the use of a metal
underwater scene, recovered persons, recovered vehicle, and related
underwater scene, vehicle positioning with reference points,
recovered persons, with associated GPS coordinates if possible.
compartments, consoles, trunks, camper shells, and other closed
areas of the vehicle should not be entered during the underwater
evidence collection and documentation operation unless there is a
substantial risk of loosing evidence during the recovery operation.
Documentation and Reports for vehicle recovery
survey. This includes all sides, roof, undercarriage, wheels,
windows, and accessories that are accessible from the vehicle
identification: This includes recording the license plate,
color,model, and other vehicle identifiers to assist law enforcement
with the initial on scene investigation.
mechanical devices. This includes the positioning of doors, wheels,
windows, trunk, hood, sun roof, tailgate, rear sliding window, and
other mechanical devices on the vehicle exterior.
survey. This includes all visible damage inside the vehicle.(example:
missing radio, steering column broken, steering wheel bent forward,
windshield smashed, handle missing, etc.)
victims. This will include the location and position of victim(s)
inside the vehicle, and if seat belts were in use.