The Story Of How Car Trunks Got Emergency Release Handles


If you’ve watched sufficient Criminal Minds episodes, you’ve most likely a couple of times thought of what you’d do for those who had been within the sufferer’s sneakers. Would you realize the key trick that meant the distinction between life and dying? Would you be capable to suppose quick sufficient to avoid wasting your self and your family members?

I’ve requested myself that query, and my reply is at all times I don’t know and hope I don’t ever have to search out out. But one girl did. She discovered a strategy to save herself after which made positive different girls had a strategy to save themselves too. Thanks to her and her wild story, since 2002, all vehicles are required to have a glow-in-the-dark emergency launch deal with within the trunk.

Janette Fennell’s story and her subsequent battle to make sure all vehicles are geared up with automotive trunk emergency launch handles first appeared on Atlas Obscura, an internet site dedicated to telling extraordinary tales in 2015, after which lately resurfaced on Reddit, in a TIL (Today I Learned) publish.

But Janette’s story began twenty years earlier.

Shortly earlier than midnight on the night time of October 29, 1995, Janette, her husband, Greig, and their nine-month-old son returned house from a pal’s home. They parked within the storage and her thoughts was already whirring with the issues she nonetheless needed to do to prep to show at her church’s Sunday faculty the following morning. It’s a straightforward scene to think about for any new mom making an attempt to get something finished over the weekend. There ought to have been nothing out of the peculiar concerning the night time.

There was.

As the storage door slid closed, two males rolled beneath the storage on their sides. As if that visible alone isn’t scary sufficient, additionally they wore masks, one which pictured a sinister werewolf on its face.


The males held Janette and her husband at gunpoint and ordered them into the trunk. The kidnappers had no thought the Fennells’ child was nonetheless strapped in his carseat within the automotive till the 2 new dad and mom heard one of many kidnappers say, “there’s a baby.” After that, there was no point out of the child, they usually had no thought what had or would occur to the toddler.

The kidnappers started to drive and the Fennells stored an ear out for sounds from their son to find out whether or not he was secure. They might hear nothing.

As the automotive navigated the streets of San Francisco and onto a freeway, Janette started pulling on the carpet within the trunk. Somehow, she managed to reveal wires, and thought there was an opportunity lights may flicker or act up sufficient to draw the eye of somebody who may be capable to assist them. As the automotive drove on, bottoming out at occasions as a result of weight of two adults within the trunk, no assist got here.

“We were basically saying our last goodbyes,” Janette mentioned in an interview with NPR.


Then, the Fennells felt the automotive exit the freeway, then the paved roads. When the automotive stopped, the abductors opened the trunk and made their calls for. Janette tried to flee, however one of many males hit her within the head together with his gun.

The kidnappers demanded cash, financial institution playing cards, and pin numbers. After the Fennells turned that data over, the abductors locked them again within the trunk and mentioned they’d return to kill them if the pin numbers failed.

Janette and her husband had been left alone in a locked trunk with no gentle, and nonetheless no thought if their child was secure or not.

And then Janette reviews that she noticed a lightweight. In the realm the place she’d ripped the wires, she noticed an impossible-to-be-there gentle shining on just a little piece of wire.  According to Janette and the story she advised to Atlas Obscura the phrases she mentioned subsequent weren’t her personal. She mentioned, “I think I found the trunk release.”

Greig pulled the wire Janette had led him to and the trunk popped up. They scrambled out of the automotive and checked the backseat. No child. No automotive seat.

Bill Clark/Roll Call/Getty

Using an emergency key, they drove again to the town, known as 9-1-1 and at last, lastly, realized that their child was secure. The kidnappers had left him sitting in his automotive seat outdoors the home.

Janette’s story might have been over there. Though the abductors have by no means been caught, she’d saved herself, her husband, and her son. She’d finished the factor that was solely speculated to occur in episodes of Criminal Minds. But Janette’s story doesn’t finish there—and we owe her a debt of gratitude for it.

Janette collected knowledge and commenced researching the problem. She lobbied lawmakers to cross a regulation that may require automakers to outfit autos with glow-in-the-dark emergency launch handles. She undoubtedly saved lives.

“We have not been able to uncover one case of a person dying in a trunk since those releases were put in. We have plenty of stories of people getting put in the trunk by a thief, and taken to the ATM. But they found the release and jumped out,” Janette advised Atlas Obscura.

And Janette isn’t finished saving lives. She’s gone on to champion different questions of safety associated to autos.

Because for Janette, the best way to heal from her trauma was to behave—and preserve others secure from having to reside by way of what she endured.

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