MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — When hearing about the story of the woman and five kids that veered off into a pond in St. Louis Park, it’s natural to wonder, “what would I do in that situation?”
The truth is, there is no easy way to escape this type of situation because there are so many factors that could come into play, and of course, general panic can set in.
Still, the State Patrol said there are a couple of things you can do that may greatly increase your chance of survival.
“It often takes everything just for the driver or able-bodied person to survive,” said Lt. Eric Roeske, of the Minnesota State Patrol.
And time is of the essence. A person in a submerged vehicle has to act fast.
“You want to get out of that vehicle and get to safety as quickly as possible,” he said.
Quite often, the best way to do that is through the window — as water pressure makes opening a door nearly impossible.
“Most vehicles nowadays have power windows and it’s not unusual for them to continue working a short period of time after a vehicle is submerged,” Roeske said.
It’s also recommended that drivers keep an escape tool in their vehicle — one that can be used to break a window, but can also help cut seatbelts off of other passengers.
Roeske said once out of the car, the cold water slows down mind and body. The key is to stay calm and keep moving, which Roeske knows is far easier said than done.
“If anyone has been in that situation, you recognize the time to function is incredibly short,” he said.
It’s believed that the car on Thursday went into a holding pond that was about 9-feet deep. And the water temperature was about 35 degrees — so just above freezing.
An escape tool only costs about $5 at most hardware stores, it doesn’t take up a lot of space. And it is recommended to have in your vehicle because sadly, you just never know.
Thursday’s incident also brings up another common question — what is a holding pond and why are they located so close to a freeway?
“It depends on location,” said Bobbie Dahlke, of the Minnesota Department of Transportation. “It depends on the speeds.”
Dahlke said holding ponds or retention ponds became part of the landscape in the 1970s, as part of the Clean Water Act.
Their purpose is to catch sediment from the roadways so it doesn’t get into streams or lakes. They are also designed to help with flood control during heavy rains.
“We don’t want it to pool on the roads, that creates a safety issue so it goes into the pond and it’s held there so motorists are safe,” she said.
The holding pond where Thursday’s crash happened was installed in the early 70s. And the State Patrol says an unexpected path by the driver, is the only reason the holding pond was a factor.
MnDOT records did show that as of 2009, that intersection was ranked 27th statewide for interchange crash costs.
Between 2007 to 2009, it also had a higher than average crash severity rate.