Window glass may have slowed Fall Creek crash rescue effort

car into Fall Creek

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – A deadly crash Friday morning is shedding new light on the dangers posed by window glass when vehicles enter water.  911 calls from bystanders show rescuers ran into trouble while trying to pull the driver to safety.

At least three people jumped into frigid water near Fall Creek Parkway and Allisonville Road to try to save Miranda Dermanelian, 25. She died Friday afternoon at IU Methodist Hospital after driving her GMC Jimmy into Fall Creek early that morning.

The pressure of the rapidly moving water made it nearly impossible to open the door while the SUV was sinking. Several witnesses reported the group of rescuers attempting to use a hammer to break through the SUV’s windows and pull the Dermanelian to safety. But, they ran into trouble.

A concern uncovered by I-Team 8 last year may help explain why.

The front side windows on many 1980s and 1990s GMC Jimmy models, like the one involved in Friday’s crash, were made from laminated glass. It’s the same glass found in your windshield, and it’s designed specifically not to shatter.

Dozens of newer model cars and SUVs now use that style of glass on side windows. Federal highway safety tests have shown the glass can help keep you in the car in the event of a rollover.

But, last year, an I-Team 8 investigation found that glass can also trap you inside if the car goes underwater.

That may be what happened in Dermanelian’s case.

“The witnesses jumped in the water immediately when she went in,” said Indianapolis Fire Department Captain Rita Reith. ““Somebody was a construction worker, I think. They had a hammer on them and used that to break out a window. But, they were [only] able to break out the back window. Then when the car submerged fully, they jumped out of the water and then they left the scene.”

Almost all rear windows–including the ones on GMC Jimmy models–are made of tempered glass. It’s designed to shatter easily when it’s hit with a sharp object. Spring loaded center punches, like ResQMe, can shatter tempered windows in under one second. You can buy a center punch at many hardware stores or online for around $15.

The key is knowing what type of glass is on your vehicle, then finding the easiest glass to break that would provide the quickest way out during an emergency.

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