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Woman locked in her BMW: 'Am I going to die?'

Posted at 1:52 PM, Sep 28, 2016

Today's high tech cars have so many great safety features. But could the anti-theft feature on some luxury cars be too good?    

That's what one woman wonders after getting locked inside her car for 2 hours.

Dream car turned nightmare
Mercena Trevathan's 2012 BMW 3 Series was her dream car, until a nightmare malfunction locked her inside for two hours.

Trevathan says she got in on Saturday morning, pushed the "on" button, but the car wouldn't start. Then, when she tried to exit the car to figure out what the problem was, the doors and windows wouldn't open.

"The door handle was pulling, but it wasn't working," she said.

After almost 30 minutes of pushing the key fob and trying all the handles, she says, "I was sweating and everything, and the only thing going through my mind was am I gonna die?"

So she called BMW roadside assistance from her cell phone, asking  them to open it remotely.

Trevathan says BMW kept trying to send a signal to open up her car, but says since she was inside her garage, with the door still down, the signal apparently wouldn't go through.

"They were trying to send signals to unlock it and there was no success."

And with the garage door down, and no one else home at the time, no neighbors could hear or see her locked in the car.

Police: "Never seen anything like it"
Trevathan says the BMW rep suggested calling 9-1-1, which they did.

Police Sergeant Greg Stidd was first on the scene, and says he'd never seen anything like it.

"I thought it would be a simple thing," Stidd said. "But we tried the door handles, we tried the door locks, we tried the trunk release  and nothing happened.  We couldn't even open the hood to try to jump start it," he said.

A second officer eventually showed up, and Stidd said "we just decided to break the window at that point."

So police smashed a rear window and got Trevathan out safely.

We spoke with the service manager at her BMW dealership, which explained they believe a rare battery malfunction was to blame, apparently putting the car into "theft mode," where all doors and windows are deadlocked shut.

Several brands blamed for deadbolt lock-ins
But this is becoming an issue with several luxury car brands, that have advanced anti theft systems, designed to keep thieves from stealing a car, even if they break a window. News stories and blog posts include:

There have also been some reports of deaths inside locked cars, where the victims died of heat exhaustion, unable to escape.

Trevathan says even though her car now works fine, she's never going to get in her car inside the closed garage again.

"I could have suffocated in that car, you know? Nobody would have known that I was in the car," she said.

Company reimburses all repair costs
We reached out to BMW of North America, which had no comment on what exactly happened to Trevathan's 3 series. But the company promised to reimburse her for all repair costs involved, including replacement of her window.

But it's a topic that's not going away anytime soon. A California BMW owner recently filed suit, seeking Class Action status, over BMW'S locking system, naming two other cases where firemen had to break windows to rescue an owner.

Trevathan's message to others: always have your cell phone with you, and don't get in the car in a locked garage, so you stay safe and you don't waste your money.


Don't Waste Your Money is a registered trademark of the EW Scripps Co.

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