Now, GM planned for an eventuality like this by placing a manual door release handle on the ground next to the seat. It’s marked with a red diagram of the driver-side door opening. There’s also a section about it in the owner’s manual. The only problem here, was that Pyros says he didn’t know the release was there, and he didn’t have his owner’s manual in the car. Because of this, Pyros may not have made it out alive if not for a neighbor coming to his rescue.
“I came to the conclusion that I was going to die … I was at peace with it. I asked God to help me twice, then I said, ‘OK, God if this is the way I’m supposed to die, I will die,'” Pyros said to reporters.
There’s every chance he could have died in the car, too. Temperatures in Cleveland hit 77 degrees the day he was in the car, and he said it was unbearably hot and difficult to breathe after only 30 minutes sealed inside. Pyros reportedly tried yelling, pounding on and even trying to break the car’s windows without success. At one point, Pyros wrote a note to his nephew explaining what happened if he ended up dying. What eventually saved him was a curious neighbor who came to investigate after he noticed his garage door was still open late at night. His neighbor called the police after he found him in the car, and emergency personnel actually ended up charging his car’s battery up enough to get the electric door release to work.
Of course, after everything settled down, there are now lawyers involved. They’re going after GM, with an argument accusing the automaker of not making the emergency latch more obvious both in the car and in the owner’s manual.
GM doesn’t appear to be having any of it. Here’s its statement on the matter: “Because this varies by make and model, drivers should review the door lock section of their owner’s manual, and follow up with their dealer or customer assistance center if they have any questions,” GM spokesman Tom Wilkinson wrote to the Free Press.
This type of door release isn’t particularly uncommon for GM vehicles. The Corvette has had it for years and even the small production Cadillac ELR had an electronic door release too. Tesla also uses a button for the door release on its Model 3, but the emergency latch in that one is a little easier to get to on the doors. The only catch there, is that only the front doors on the Model 3 have emergency releases, so back seat passengers would have to crawl to the front if the rear doors quit working.
The lesson here: read your owner’s manual. And if you find yourself in a similar situation, take a calm, methodical look around the cabin. Chances are, you’ll be able to free yourself.