Underwater Vehicle Recovery

Once the driver and passengers have been rescued, or (sad to say) their bodies recovered from underwater, it’s necessary to get the car or truck out of the water.  Besides being a safety and navigation hazard, contamination by fuel, oil, or cargo can be quite harmful.  So failure to take proper responsibility can result in fines several times that of typical water recovery fees.

Hollywood Towing’s vehicle recovery pros are ready for flooded areas, cars down the boat ramp, and car and truck accidents that go past the bank or shore.  With prompt submerged vehicle recovery it might not be a complete write off.  But the longer the vehicle is in the water the more damage there will be until it eventually becomes unsalvageable.

So we’re always on our toes for 24 hour emergency water recovery services.  Shallow water recoveries might take only a matter of minutes, but a fully underwater vehicle recovery can take many hours even after special equipment is gathered and brought to the site.  And shallow- as well as deep-water vehicle recovery takes expert planning to get the vehicle out of the water and towed away.

Underwater Vehicle Recovery

With a fully submerged vehicle in the water, just finding it can be a significant task as it may have drifted far from its entry point.  Underwater vehicle recover can be particularly hazardous, with risks of entanglement, shifting and settling, and hard to see sharp objects.  Lifting bags designed and manufactured just for this purpose can float thousands of pounds each, and we’ll use 2 or 4 for sedans, vans, and pickups.

Vehicle in the Water

For a partially submerged vehicle it’s usually possible to simply wade in, find a suitable attachment point above or just below the surface, then complete a fairly normal winch-out with minimal damage.  With our 35-ton capacity heavy duty towing wreckers for big rig recovery, brute force is rarely a problem.  But there can be complications such as rocks, stumps, and other obstructions that make things more difficult.  Often water visibility is a foot or less so it can be more time consuming to find hook-up points, and necessary to move slowly to avoid injury from unseen vehicle damage.

Submerged Vehicle Safety Tips

Reading about underwater recoveries leaves many people a bit frightened, so after some important background here are a few tips for the very slim chance that you’ll find yourself in such a situation.

    • Vehicles will usually float for a while.  That’s typically around 3 minutes, and it may take as long as 10 minutes to become fully submerged.  So keeping your head the minute you hit the drink will be a huge benefit.
    • What happens next depends on the depth of the water.  In shallows you’ll probably settle right-side-up.  But with depths 2-3 times greater than the vehicle length the vehicle will usually flip upside down.
    • Air pockets in larger vehicles such as vans have been known to sustain a person for 15 minutes or more.
    • You actually have two priorities.  The first of course is escaping the vehicle, and the second is avoiding hypothermia in cold water.

Even so, there’s not a moment to loose as you go through the following actions.  Forget using your cell phone.  Your odds are best if you can get out in the first 60 seconds.

  • Do not open the car door.  Water can then flood in and sink you before you have time to do anything else.
  • Your first action should be to roll down the window.  Then grab the steering wheel to stabilize yourself in case there’s a rush of water or the car flips.  Then unbuckle your seat belt  Some people advise unbuckling and exiting through the window immediately (if there are children, unbuckle them and send them out the window first), while others recommend keeping your seat belt on until water is up to your chin.
  • Take a deep breath and then get yourself out of the vehicle.  There’s no need to know which way is up.  With that deep breath you’ll float.  Then getting up on the roof may save you several minutes in the water.

The next time you’re stuck in traffic, go through those steps in your head a few times.  They can all be done in less than a minute.  If you can’t roll down the window, forget about smashing the windshield — it’s designed to be super-tough.  Buy a window-breaking tool and keep it stowed within easy reach.

(Information from https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/14/magazine/how-to-escape-from-a-car-in-water.html?_r=0 and http://www.fireengineering.com. You can find additional details at https://www.washingtonpost.com)