Retention ponds create a drowning hazard for motorists. This was highlighted by tragic events over the Fourth of July holiday weekend.  A man died, and an 11-year old boy was hospitalized, when their car plunged into a retention pond at the Heartland on the Lake apartment complex near the Eastland Mall in Columbus, Ohio.

Local media reported that Dereje Kume, 55, of Columbus, was pronounced dead early Sunday morning at Mount Carmel East Hospital. Eleven year old Leta Galagalo, also of Columbus, remained hospitalized at Nationwide Children’s Hospital.

Unfortunately, retention pond drowning of car passengers is more common that expected.  The dangers of driving near deep water are highlighted by the hundreds of people who die each year in sinking vehicles.  Following several safety tips can save your life and the lives of your passengers, if you find yourself in a sinking vehicle.

  • Open the windows as fast as possible.  If the windows are jammed, use any available object (a purse, cell phone, or other object) to break the glass.
  • Open side windows only — not the windshield.  Windshields are thicker than side windows and much more difficult to break
  • Do not try to open the door until water has stopped flooding into the car.   Until the car fills with water (even up to your neck), the pressure will be too great to try to open the door.
  • Do not remove your seat belt until you have opened a door or window.
  • Once outside the vehicle, let your body float to the surface.  When you take deep breaths, and hold your breath, it’s like filling a balloon, and you will rise to the surface without additional effort.
  • Finally — and most difficult–remain as calm as possible.  Panicking only increases the likelihood of drowning.

Unfortunately, the tragedy over the weekend was not an isolated event.  According to local media, two men died in August, 2017, when their car plunged into the same pond.  Additionally, Clark Perdue represented the surviving passenger in a car that was driven into the pond in 2011.

At Clark Perdue, we encourage drivers to exercise caution around lakes and ponds, particularly on roads or in parking lots that do not have guardrails around bodies of water.