Seconds count when your car goes into water

- Investigators say it could be three months before we learn what caused a father and daughter to plunge their van into the water near the Venice jetty Monday afternoon. Witnesses dove in, trying to rescue 64-year-old Carol and 88-year-old Eugene Hayden, but were unable to save them.

With so many bodies of water surrounding Florida's roads, a crash like this could happen to anyone. Would you know how to react?

It is so important to plan your escape, should you ever find yourself trapped inside your car and surrounded by water, especially with so many bridges in the Tampa Bay area. The right tools, preparation, and a cool mind can make all the difference.

"You have anywhere between 30 seconds to 2 minutes before a car may sink," said Captain Brian Echholz of Tampa Fire Rescue, "there are different factors that may be involved."

RELATED: Two dead after van drives off Venice jetty

Eichholz and other first responders train for this scenario. Most of us don't. So, here's what to do.

"If you know you're headed for that water, you want to brace yourself for impact," Eichholz said.

Next, as difficult as it seems, stay calm. You need to conserve energy and oxygen in case you're later forced to swim up.

"Once the car starts to submerge, it's going to be very hard to get the door open," Eichholz said. "Unbuckle your seat belt. Once you've done that, then get to the window system quickly. Roll down the window. And then take the opportunity to assist other people in the car."

That's best case scenario. If you're stuck, grab a hard object like an umbrella,  laptop or steel edge of your headrest and aim for the corners.

"When seconds count, an emergency glass breaking tool could mean the difference between life and death. All it takes is a little bit of pressure to smash out a side window. The tools come in many different varieties and can be found online or in most auto stores. They only cost a few dollars.

A study done by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration ranked Florida as No. 1 in the country when it comes to vehicle-related drownings. On average, 57 people die here each year.

"You never know when an emergency is going to happen," Eichholz said.

It can happen to anyone. Preparing for the worst could give you your best chance.

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