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Pinellas County trains firefighters for water extractions

Data shows a car has driven into a Florida body of water in every single county.

TARPON SPRINGS, Florida — Florida is the No. 1 state in the country for vehicles driving into a body of water.

So far this year nearly 300 cars have landed underwater.

“I saw it go in right there,” said Larry Henning, who witnessed a vehicle last February end up in his retention pond.

“The fire department did the best job they could do with what they had. They dove right in and the supervisor said, ‘come on out,’” said Henning. “It took dive crews about 45 minutes to go in there and get the car out.”

In Pasco County, firefighters are not trained for water extraction.

10Investigates has learned most counties in the state don’t train their firefighters for water extraction.

They instead wait for law enforcement dive teams to arrive on the scene. That is except for Pinellas County.

“Time is of the essence,” said Deputy Chief Richard Walsh, who invited our team out to watch a Water Extrication Team Training also called WET with Tarpon Springs Fire.

“It was two minutes and 48 seconds from time in the water to out with victim,” said Walsh.

“Our average response time is three to five minutes. They are getting into that gear while they get the call,” said Walsh.

Pinellas County officials said six agencies in the county have WET.

The county estimates it costs between $4,000 to $5,000 to purchase the initial gear for one diver and another thousand dollars for training.

“Even if you just get one call and save a life, that’s the plan,” said Walsh.

The county has been utilizing the training for the past eight years.

“I didn’t realize there were other counties that didn’t have what we have.”

The latest data 10Investigates obtained show there has been a car driven into a body of water in every single county in the state in the past 10 years.

“If It could just save one life, my life, it’s worth it,” said Henning.

Pasco County officials said they don’t have a wet team at Pasco County Fire Rescue but are looking to start a team in the future.

So what happens if your car does drive into a body of water? How can you protect yourself?

Remember to not panic, roll down the window as a way to escape, look for an air pocket and take off your seatbelt while the car is floating. 

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