With cold weather just around the corner, 75-year-old Peter Pyros of Cleveland wanted to take one last spin around the neighborhood in his 2006 Cadillac XLR roadster. Pyros got in his vehicle, shut the door and hit the push-start button.
He tried putting the key fob into a slot to start it, but the engine wouldn't even budge. He had two new key-fob batteries in the center console, so he replaced the battery with each. Still, the car had no response. As a later-model vehicle, the car has buttons instead of door handles and is completely dependent on the electrical system and engine. With nothing working, including the windows and horn, Pyros was trapped inside his vehicle for nearly 14 hours.
Planning on starting the car and getting out to change clothes, letting the car run to presumably cool-down on a warm August day, Pyros didn't think to tell anyone he was going for a drive and left his cell phone inside. He tried to punch and kick out the windows to no avail, and the 77 degree day quickly rose the vehicle's internal temperatures to well-over 100 degrees.
Pyros told The Washington Post
that he pressed his mouth to the door and screamed for help, but no one was home to hear him. He began pouring sweat and the windows quickly fogged over. He could barely breathe, passed out twice, and when he needed to, urinated inside his shoes.
At one point, he said, he accepted it, telling God, "This is the way I'm going to die."
Eventually, a neighbor did hear Pyros pounding and sent him a text message. When he didn't respond, he hopped the fence to see the garage door open, and Pyros trapped inside the vehicle. Emergency services were called and the engine had to be jump started in order to break him out, as the electronic vehicle would not respond to traditional methods of car rescue.
GM said in a statement Monday
that "any vehicle or key fob can lose power" and "that risk can increase as the vehicle ages." They indicate that all of the cars have a manual unlock if the vehicle loses power, but this fail-safe varies by make and model. GM encourages all drivers to review their owner's manual so they will know what to do.
Pyros' Cadillac has a manual door release on the floor, but he didn't know that and his owner's manual was in the house.
"Too many of the automakers shortchange the technology in the vehicle in that there should be fail-safe electrical backup just as there is for the air bag system," Byron Bloch, a court-qualified auto safety expert based in Potomac, Maryland told
the Detroit Free Press
“You should be worried because unless you can check in your owner’s manual to determine if you have an energy reserve power system. You could not only be entrapped, but if it’s a hot summer day and you have a child in there with you, you’d be powerless to save your child when the car reaches 120 or 130 degrees," Bloch said.
Bloch said car owners can ensure their safety by making sure they and family members who use the car know where the emergency manual door release handles are located and to check the key fob battery every two to three years.
"Car companies like to say, 'We put it in the owner's manual and if you were stupid enough to not read it, it’s your fault,' " Bloch said. He also said even dealership sales' staff can't recite the vast information contained in an owner's manual.
"Just putting a line in the owners manual, that’s not fair to the purchaser of the vehicle," Bloch said. "It’s truly life and death."