Florida sheriff’s deputies are crediting the iPhone’s automatic crash detection feature for recently helping them rescue a man who drove into a canal late at night on a rural road near Indiantown.
According to the Martin County Sheriff’s Office, deputies learned of the accident after the driver’s iPhone called 9-1-1 and notified dispatchers. “The owner of this iPhone was in a serious car crash and is not responding to their phone,” an automated voice informed them. The voice then provided the latitude and longitude coordinates of the crash site.
“Our dispatch system takes those numbers and puts them into our Rapid SOS system, which tells them the nearest street, intersection or address that our deputies or fire rescue can respond to,” Chief Deputy John Budensiek explained to WPTV.
The iPhone and Apple Watch’s new crash detection feature automatically calls 9-1-1 if it detects a sudden loud noise or deceleration that could signal a vehicle accident.
Thanks to the driver’s iPhone, deputies were able to respond to the scene — located near County Road 609 — in roughly eight minutes. There, they heard the man’s cries for help coming from the canal.
Body-camera footage showed deputies jumping into the canal to rescue the driver.
“OK, buddy. I got you,” a deputy said. “I’m going to figure a way in.”
They eventually found a way inside the vehicle after being unable to break in.
“So, they ended up actually prying the door open and ended up encountering the driver who appeared to be in a state of hypothermia,” Budensiek told WPBF 25 News.
“Hey, can you move, bud? “Do you think you can get out?” a deputy asked the driver.
“Can you get me a blanket please, sir?” the driver said. “I’m freezing.”
Deputies then lifted the man out of the vehicle and carried him to safety. The 38-year-old driver said he swerved to avoid hitting a hog in the road and ended up flipping over into the canal. Thankfully, he sustained only non-life-threatening injuries.
Budensiek said there may have been a different outcome if the man’s iPhone did not call for help. “He was far enough off the road in the canal where he likely would not have been seen until morning,” he said. “He very well might not have survived that based on his condition.”
The sheriff’s department posted on Facebook praising deputies for their bravery. “We would like to commend our brave deputies and incredible dispatchers for their perseverance and bravery locating and rescuing this crash victim using only coordinates automatically launched from the victim’s phone,” the post read.
The iPhone feature can be found in the phone’s settings under the “Emergency SOS” field. Android phones also have similar features. While many law enforcement agencies have reported an increase in false alarms generated by the technology, triggered by everything from rollercoasters to skiing, its lifesaving potential may outweigh the hassle.
“It makes it all worthwhile, our deputies being able to get there to take care of business,” Budensiek said.