The “Find My iPhone” feature built into Apple devices is very handy for locating misplaced phones and iPads. It can be used to find the device by GPS, to send an audible tone to the device even if it is on silent, and even to erase the device remotely if it has been stolen. All you need to do is log in to iCloud with your Apple ID and you can do that and many other things.
But for Melissa Vasquez, the feature was a literal lifesaver.
Vasquez’ car flipped down a 500-foot ravine in the mountains near San Jose. Her car had an OnStar system in it, and police were notified of the crash. But OnStar’s system was having trouble pinpointing the location of the crash with enough accuracy to help police locate it.
OnStar representatives were even able to sound the car horn repeatedly in an attempt to help police zero in on Vasquez’ location, but to no avail.
Then one of the California Highway Patrol officers had an idea. Officer David Cameron tried to log in to iCloud using Vasquez’ known email address. The issue was guessing the password. Cameron used some common password combinations and managed to guess his way in. The service showed that Vasquez did, indeed, have her iPhone with her. He located the map coordinates where she was.
Police found Vasquez face-down in the ravine, where she had been ejected from her car. She was rescued and treated in the hospital.
David Cameron still feels like luck played a role in what he was able to do.
“I made an educated guess based on a series of common numbers people use for passwords and on the third attempt I was able to get in,” Cameron said. “I think somebody was looking out for her. Things fell in place and had those things not fallen in place, it could have been a totally different story.”
OnStar worked tirelessly to help police, but still caught some criticism over why their own service could not locate the vehicle. Perhaps their equipment was damaged in the crash. They did issue a statement:
“We are saddened by this incident involving one of our subscribers. Our subscribers' safety and security is OnStar's utmost concern. We are currently conducting a complete investigation, including information we have received from our call centers, our cellular network provider, our engineering team and the local authorities to better understand what occurred."