Two Indiana first responders are being hailed as heroes after they conducted a daring rescue of a motorist who crashed into a retention pond on a cold November evening.

The motorist lost control of his vehicle and veered into oncoming traffic before leaving the road and plunging into the frigid water.  Fortunately, it only took a couple of minutes before help started to arrive, and one of the firefighters dove straight into the water in order to assist the victim who was trapped inside the car.

However, the doors were locked, and the firefighter didn’t have any tools to break into the vehicle.  A police officer also dove into the water, managed to smash the back window of the car with his elbow, and both men were able to rescue the driver who was cold but unharmed.  The whole incident lasted less than 10 minutes.

What Went Right

Time was definitely on the side of the motorist.  In the short amount of time that he was in the water, his body temperature plunged to less than 90 degrees.  If rescuers weren’t so close, chances are that he would have drowned.  Shallow water also played a role in making the vehicle easily-accessible.  If it was completely submerged, a water rescue team would probably need to be dispatched, and this would have undoubtedly led to a recovery effort instead.

What Went Wrong

As far as we can tell, the first person to head into the water went alone, even if it was just a few seconds before backup arrived.  Whenever possible, it’s important to go in with someone else.  Not only could the rescuer have been shocked and immobilized by the extreme cold, but the victim may have put up a struggle and endangered the rescuer as well.  Consequently, there was little margin for error, and two people could have been in danger instead of one.

Another mistake was the motorist, rescuer and police officer didn’t have a tool on hand to break windows or force open one of the doors in order to free the victim.  It was fortunate that the police officer was able to use his elbow to break the rear window, but this is definitely an exception to the rule.  In other words, the rescuers sprung into action, but they went in unprepared.

Think about what would have happened if they couldn’t gain entry and had to swim back to shore to get tools?  The amount of lost time may have been enough to cause the victim to drown or suffer from the effects of hypothermia.  Both rescuers would probably be impaired by the cold by the the time they reached the vehicle for a second attempt to free the victim as well.

The important lesson here is to remember to assess the situation and come up with a plan before springing into action.  It’s also important to have the appropriate tools on hand as well.  A window breaker only costs a few dollars, anyone can use them, and they can be stored in the glove box or vehicle survival kit.

While this rescue had a happy ending for all involved, it’s important to remember that things could have just as easily ended up differently.  Think about what went right and wrong, and put yourself in that situation.