Written by Rob
My car hit the water in a shallow dive. I’d always thought of water as a soft landing, but the car stopped like it had hit concrete. No matter, seatbelt and airbag kept things relatively comfortable. I’m feeling quite calm, which amazes me. The car is semi-floating in the lake but the front is sinking quite fast. There’s lots of bubbling and hissing of hot parts. I can feel the back-end floating up behind me, tipping me forward against the seatbelt. I have no idea how deep this lake is. I’ve driven past it many times and not given it a second thought. I wasn’t expecting black ice. I need to sit still and wait. If the lake is shallow I will be able to clamber out through a window. If it’s deep, I need to wait until I’ve sunk and the car is full of water because I can’t either clamber through a window against the incoming flow, or open a door until the pressure is equal inside and out. The water is gushing through the heating system. It smells slightly mouldy. I take off my seatbelt and put it out of harms way; we don’t want any entanglement issues! The water is up to the bottom of the windscreen outside and my knees inside. I try to wind down my side window but there is no response from the button. That worries me. I’m guessing the electrics are fused or the battery is compromised in some way. I don’t feel so calm now. Still I’m sinking, water up on my chest, cold and threatening.
I must not panic: panic is the killer.
The water is half way up the windscreen, pale khaki, alive with bubbles. I fight the urge to pull at the door catch. The water laps at my throat and I start to float out of my seat. I know I need the car to fill fast; I don’t want to wait, holding my breath, until I can open the door. The car is turning more nose down. I can feel the air pressure building in my ears as the weight of the car sits on the pocket of air remaining in the cockpit. Suddenly, there’s a popping sound, the car falls fast and I’m engulfed, water over my head. Then there is a crunch and a groan as the car hits the bottom and rolls onto the driver’s side. I open my eyes and find I can see reasonably well, as I scramble up to the passenger door above me. I pull the catch and push up; nothing. I push hard with my left leg against the steering column and my shoulder against the door; still nothing. My lungs are bursting! A long frond of water weed floats into my face. That can’t have come through the heating system. I look around – is the back window missing? I desperately clamber over the front seats and swim out through the open window, then up to the surface, sucking on the air, gasping and coughing. That was close!
As one door closes, another one opens.