Superman

Last week was interesting. On Monday I was on my way to lunch with a couple of co-workers (Randy Johnson and James Garner) when the SUV in front of us launched itself off of a bridge. It looked like a scene from a car chase on a movie (but without the explosions). It just launched off into the air and then disappeared from view. I’m guessing the drop was 40 or 50 feet and the SUV was doing maybe 45 or so. James was driving and he was able to pull over into a parking lot right next to the bridge. We all bailed out and went running down the steep embankment. The SUV was floating in the middle of the lake. The front end was under water but we could still see the passengers through the front windows. They looked like they were in shock. You know how time seems to slow down when adrenaline gets released in your system. Well this was definitely one of those experiences. We spent what seemed like forever trying to get their attention and to get them to roll down their windows so they could crawl out but they never moved (it was probably like 15 seconds). Then Randy says, “We gotta get them outta there” (we’re from Texas, so that’s the way we talk). And about 3 seconds later he’s ditched his shoes and wallet and phone and he’s in the water. And I’m thinking “Rats, I guess I better go help him”. Meanwhile, James has dialed 911 and is running back up to his car to get a crow bar to break the window out. So I jump in and start swimming the 50 yards or so to the vehicle, which is surprisingly hard to do in blue jeans by the way. Another couple of guys follow us into the water as well, so there are four of us altogether.

So Randy is first to the SUV and he is at the front trying to get the passengers to wake up and roll the windows down, but he doesn’t get much response from them. Meanwhile, a couple of us swim around to the back of the truck and start trying to get the hatch open. It ended up taking three of us to get it opened. Once the door was open, the water went rushing in and in a matter of about 15 seconds the whole thing was underwater. There was a very scary couple of seconds while the passengers were clambering over the seats to the back hatch and the water was rushing in. Fortunately they were able to climb towards the back and we were able to pull them both out and then pull them back to shore. Did I mention how hard it is to swim with blue jeans on?

I really believe that the passengers were in serious risk of drowning and that if Randy had not jumped in as quickly as he did they may not have made it out. They were pretty shook up. And had the vehicle sunk before we got them I think it’s unlikely they would have been able to get themselves out. We would not have been able to help as you couldn’t see 2 inches in that water. And the water was a lot deeper than I expected. After the SUV sunk we were briefly treading water above it and I never kicked anything.  Anyway, here’s what Randy looked like in my mind’s eye on Monday:

Randy Johnson – SuperDBA

I felt more like this guy (did I mention the blue jeans, hard to swim in thing):

Kerry Osborne – Swimming in Blue Jeans

So what to do after a heroic water rescue? We went to Taco Diner and had lunch on the patio. No one even asked us why we were dripping big puddles under our chairs. Then we went back to the office, got our stuff and took the rest of the day off. It was a good day!

13 Comments

  1. Mike says:

    After reading this I’m thinking about stowing a small float in the trunk, or a rope on an empty plastic gas container.

    Good thing you had some friends, and enough of you could swim. I hate swimming for my life. With TX downpours, you might plan ahead. ;)

    Great job.

  2. osborne says:

    Thanks, Mike. Randy is the one that deserves all the credit though.

    Speaking of swimming for your life, that’s what I felt like by the time we got out. I wish I had a picture of us after we all got out. The four guys that had jumped in were all laying on their backs gasping for air. And I consider myself to be an excellent swimmer. (my parents claimed I could swim before I could walk, and they had pictures of me in the Pacific when I was about 6 months old to prove it) I used to see movies where a car would go into the water and think that it would be easy to get out and swim to the surface. After years of scuba diving I was very comfortable in the water and could hold my breath for a couple of minutes. Free diving to 40 or 50 feet was not a problem. But I have to admit that I have completely changed my mind. Any problem at all, slight injury, damage to the vehicle, stuck seat belt, strong current, anything really could be fatal.

    As far as precautions, I’m not sure what to do that would help (other than being careful not to drive off the bridge in the first place). Maybe having one of those glass breaker thingies, because if the car had been damaged even slightly, the windows may have been the only way out.

    Kerry

  3. Kerry,

    what a incredible story! I guess you and your fellows should call yourself “The Incredibles” or something like that from now on.

    I’m just curious: Has it been investigated how it could happen that they drove off that bridge? I still can’t imagine how exactly they managed to do this… Here in Europe there is usually quite a strong balustrade you first have to break through. I mean, that’s something that doesn’t happen to you every day. Or was this potentially a “deliberate” act, i.e. someone attempting to commit suicide? Although there are certainly less spectacular and more effective ways to do this…

    Randolf

  4. osborne says:

    Hi Randolf,

    Yeah it was an interesting experience. The driver was pretty much in shock but I don’t think he did it on purpose. He mumbled something about the steering. I don’t think either he or the passenger were hurt seriously. Although I never heard her speak at all, she just moaned while I was dragging her back to shore. So she may have had some broken ribs or something. It didn’t make the news here, I guess because no one died. So I never heard any further details about the cause of the accident.

    Good question about the “balistrade” – we call them “guard rails” here. There is a very strong one of concrete and metal, but the guy left the road right where the guard rail started. He literally missed it by a foot or so and just sailed off into the lake. Good thing too. Had they been injured or had the car be damaged, we may not have been able to get them out.

    It’s funny how our brains work. I keep seeing that SUV launch off that bridge.

    Kerry

  5. Jon says:

    Wow. All I can say is that it is good to work with people of this caliber.

  6. joel garry says:

    Wow!

    There’re companies that sell emergency window breaking hammers, but I’ve wondered how useful that would be in a real situation – if it is secured you can’t find it, and if unsecured becomes a dangerous flying object in a crash. And you noticed the shock, that doesn’t even require any injury, though the seatbelts have their plusses and minuses. Tempered glass is hard to break.

  7. osborne says:

    Yeah – I agree that the shock factor makes it much less likely that any prep will be of much help. But I have to say that there were a couple of minutes when I really thought we were going to have to break out the glass and I kept wondering how we were going to be able to do that. I’ve never had occasion to try one of those little hammer thingies, but that’s what I was thinking about. Like I said before, the best plan is probably to avoid driving off any bridges.

    Kerry

  8. Hilde says:

    Hi Kerry! Jens just forwarded me your story. I think you’re all HEROES!!! You all acted selflessly, valiantly, and saved lives! You’re all indeed supermen and deserve so much honor. Was this ever in the news or were you interviewed? Have you heard from the people you saved? It’s like a movie scene…bravo to you all!

  9. osborne says:

    Hi Hilde,

    No news coverage that I’m aware of. You know the old news adage, “If it bleeds, it leads”. So since no one got seriously injured …

    I have not heard anything from the people in the SUV and I have no idea who they were or anything about them. They probably have no idea who we are either. Just fortunate that our paths crossed for a few minutes at just the right time.

    Kerry

  10. Michael Fontana says:

    Having read the story from the source, I now say you are both quick-thinking and made a life-saving decision that I doubt myself and most others would make. Perhaps you even put yourselves in harm’s way to some extent, but it turned out quite well.

    Have you kept in touch with, or know who the people who drove off the bridge were? Was their any explantation for their actions?

  11. K Hiser says:

    Wow, what a story. I am sitting in the airport in Anchorage and had nothing to do but search the web. I am glad I went to your blog. I cannot imagine being in that situation. The passengers are lucky you guys were in such good physical shape.

  12. My congratulations to you heroes! This made my day to see fellow Oracle professionals save others lives. You make me proud!

    Cheers,
    Ben Prusinski, Oracle ACE and OCP
    http://www.ben-oracle.com

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