Death by Carwash

The story about a family drowning in a carwash because they forgot to close their car's sunroof comes from a satire news site.

Claim: A family of three drowned when they neglected to close their car's sunroof before going through a carwash.


Example: [Collected via web, March 2016]

Origin:On 19 March 2016, satire web site Empire News reported that a family had been killed by neglecting to close their car's sunroof before going through a carwash:

DARWIN, Mississippi – A family of three died yesterday after inadvertently leaving their sunroof open when going through an automated carwash. Mary and Roger Jones, both 32, and their daughter, Julie, 11, were all killed after the car filled with water.

“It’s a tragic, horrible thing,” said carwash owner Joe Goldsmith. “Thing is, we have signs everywhere reminding people to close their windows. The water comes fast and furious, and it’s dangerous to have windows open. This is the first time in my 40 years as a carwash owner that something like this has happened, though.”

This story is a fabrication. Empire News is a purveyor of fake and satirical news.  Its "About/Disclaimer" page reads:

Empire News is intended for entertainment purposes only. Our website and social media content uses only fictional names, except in cases of public figure and celebrity parody or satirization. Any other use of real names is accidental and coincidental.

It would be very difficult to drown in a carwash, even if the sunroof was inadvertently left open.  According to a 2002 report by the International Carwash Association, even the most enthusiastic washer only uses about 110 gallons over the course of several minutes, but the average water consumption is around 43 gallons per vehicle — about as much water as a very small bathtub. That, plus the fact that there is no Darwin in Mississippi (although there is a "Darling") makes this story unequivocally false.

Other stories that have originated from Empire News include Facebook spying on gun owners for Homeland Security; that food stamp recipients would be awarded free cars; and that the food stamp program would be discontinued entirely.


Last updated: 24 March 2016

Originally published: 24 March 2016

Brooke Binkowski is an award-winning journalist and researcher. She has written and produced for CNN, CBS, NPR, the Globe and Mail, AJ+, the Christian Science Monitor, and various other outlets. Brooke speaks two languages well and five languages very badly. She loves to travel, run, play music, and read, and is an avid saber fencer and an accordion enthusiast.