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Being prepared to help in a roadside emergency

| Updated Mar 3, 2013

A horrific, fiery crash along I-65 in Kentucky that claimed six lives has focused new attention on the need to be able to break through automotive safety glass to rescue people trapped in smashed cars.

Escape tool
Escape tool

The six people who died were in an SUV from Marion, WI, traveling north near Glendale, KY. The vehicle caught fire after it was rear-ended by a tractor-trailer.

Lynn and Roger Brucker, from Dayton, Ohio, were driving home in their Roadtrek van when the crash occurred behind them. They had slowed because of an accident ahead of them. You can see a photo of the crash scene and the Brucker's Roadtrek in this USA Today story, which quoted Lynn.

Lynn said her husband looked back and saw a fireball and parts from the crash flying in the air. They grabbed the Roadtrek fire extinguisher and went to the SUV to help those trapped inside. They used up the fire extinguisher and helped others rescue a 12 year old boy, who they took back to the Roadtrek for first aid until he could be transported to a hospital. A 12-year-old girl was also rescued, puled out a partially broken window.

But an intense blaze prevented the rest of the family from being rescued.

“My question is this: If we had just had something to get the doors open and break windows, is it possible no one would have died?” Lynn wrote on the Yahoo Roadtrek group hours after the March 2 crash. “We had enough time to have pulled people out if we could have gotten the doors or more windows open.”

Her posting prompted many to go online and buy special tools that will shatter safety glass on trucks, autos and RVs. I'm one of them. I ordered a dozen of them, to give to my kids, their spouses and our grandsons who drive.

Said one poster replying to Lynn: ” …tempered glass and can be very strong against a broadly dispersed impact … However, a very slight pinpoint strike will cause the entire window to disintegrate into small ‘cubes' of glass that can be scooped up like the salt that is spread on sidewalks. The easiest tool to buy that will do that is an “automatic center punch” that costs less than $10 at Harbor Freight stores. There are also various “escape tools” that have a slot with a sharp blade to cut safety belts, and a sharp pointed hammer tip to accomplish the glass breakage…”

I went to Amazon and bought the ResQMe Car Escape Tool. They cost $9.95, attach to a keyring and offer a spring-loaded head that effortlessly smashes the vehicle's side windows and a razor sharp blade that can slice through jammed seat belts. These devices used to be offered exclusively to fire, paramedic and police organizations, but are now available to the public.

Lynn's harrowing story has convinced me this is one tool I need to carry in all my vehicles.

Mike Wendland

Published on 2013-03-03

Mike Wendland is a multiple Emmy-award-winning Journalist, Podcaster, YouTuber, and Blogger, who has traveled with his wife, Jennifer, all over North America in an RV, sharing adventures and reviewing RV, Camping, Outdoor, Travel and Tech Gear for the past 12 years. They are leading industry experts in RV living and have written 18 travel books.

5 Responses to “Being prepared to help in a roadside emergency”

November 10, 2016at2:23 pm, Jeff Clark said:

One thing I would like to mention when relating to “self rescue” is that your tool needs to be very close to you. In the event there is an incident that may require you to cut yourself loose from your seat belt you may find that your restraint system has locked itself, especially if your vehicle has come to rest up side down. Your seat belt may actually keep you from reaching the tool. In a catastrophic crash EACH passenger should have access to an extraction tool. If, for example, you are a rear passenger and the driver and/or front passenger are pinned or otherwise incapacitated you need to be able to free yourself.

March 05, 2013at8:14 am, campskunk said:

one trick from a firefighter friend of mine – the glass is most resistant to breaking when hit in the center, and breaks most easily when tapped in a corner, near the frame. he says that the best place to tap it is the logo of the glass manufacturer in the bottom corner – on front side windows, this is the rearward bottom corner, nearest the door handle. there’s a weak spot there due to the inclusion of the logo in the glass.

March 04, 2013at11:36 am, Jacqueline O Chaplin said:

Another thing that was brought out was child safety locks which probably caused the doors to be unable to open. There were no children in there young enough to have warranted the use of such locks. In an attempt to make everyone safe, it killed them. One other observance was the need for bigger fire extinguishers. I finally got a bigger fire extinguisher in Jan. I know Lynn and applaud her decision to help, but I am so sorry she had to go through this harrowing experience.

March 03, 2013at8:21 pm, Louise and Carl said:

Thank you Mike for your diligence in telling us about this. We so appreciate all you do for your fellow RVers by keeping watch on things like this. Such a sad tragedy.

March 03, 2013at8:09 pm, James Fletcher said:

Thanks for this report. I just ordered one of the keychains.

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