With water pouring into her SUV, Heather Vaden was desperate to find a way to save her son.Screenshot/KMOV
As KMOV reports, the pregnant mom from Pacific, Missouri was driving early Wednesday morning when she swerved to avoid a dog that had run in front her SUV. Vaden lost control of the car, which bounced out of a ditch, through a fence, and into a nearby lake.
As her SUV started to sink, Vaden immediately started thinking of how to escape. She told Fox 2 News:
“As soon as we hit the water I got my seat belt off. I got him out of his car seat.”
The frigid water was seeping into the car, covering the hood and the front floorboards. Knowing that the water pressure would make it impossible to open the doors, Vaden looked for something that could break the windows. She was hoping for a tire iron. With nothing in sight, she had to kick out the glass.
She told Fox 2 that it took about five kicks before they were able to escape:
“Once that window wasn’t coming out the first time I was like, ‘If we don’t get out I’m not going to be able sit there and watch [my son] go down. So, that’s when I knew I was going to have do something. That’s when I just kept kicking.”
Grabbing her young son, Vaden began to swim the 20 to 30 feet to shore. Her son was crying from the cold, and the pregnant mom struggled to keep his head out of the water while swimming with a broken arm. In the video below, she told KMOV:
“I was swimming with this one and holding him up with this one, my right arm and I could hear him get a little bit of water every now and then.”
Vaden’s husband soon arrived and — seeing their vehicle in the water — was about to dive in to save them. She quickly stopped him and let him know that they were all safe.
Chief Gary Graft of the Pacific Fire Protection Unit told Fox 2 that preparation and quick thinking helped Vaden save herself and her son:
“She’s obviously thought of something of this before and knew how to react because her reactions this morning were right on and that’s what saved herself and the infant.”
According to Car and Driver, Vaden did exactly the right thing. If trapped in a sinking car, the first thing to do is unbuckle your seat belt and unlock the door. If the window doesn’t open, try to kick out a side window and escape that way.
If you can’t kick the window out, don’t panic. Wait until there is enough water in the car to reduce the pressure, then carefully open the car door (it will be be difficult) and swim for the surface.
After her terrifying experience, Vaden said she cries every time she thought about what could have happened. As she told KMOV, it has given her a new outlook on what Thanksgiving Day is all about:
“Thank God we are all safe and who cares about all the other stuff. We’re safe, we got out. So, that’s what I’m thankful for this year.”