US Sailing Rescue Medal Goes to 23 Collegiate Regatta Sailors, Galveston Bay

At Texas A&M; University Galveston’s Graduation Ceremony on May 11, 2002, the United States Sailing Association presented the Arthur B. Hanson Rescue Medal to 23 rescuers of six passengers of a minivan that had driven into a bayou during Texas A&M; University of Galveston’s Open Team Race.

For the rescuers’ significant courage, seamanship, and compassion, and incredible spontaneous coordination, US Sailing presented the Rescue Medal to the following sailors turned divers, first-aid, CPR providers, and rescuers: Brence Bedwell, Jenipher Cate, Jeff Daigle, Kevin Gunn, James Loynes, Chris Noll, Robin Reger, Joe Richardson, Bill Self, Julie Svaton, Danna Svejkosky, Gerard Coleman, Luckey Reed, Shannon Galway, Laura Stover, Spencer Ogden, Scott Marsden, Jake Scott, John Gross, Gene Soltero, Gretchen Poplinger, Andy Towles, and Matt Romberg.

On February 23, 2002, an allegedly suicidal man drove his minivan at a high rate of speed into Offats Bayou in Galveston Bay, Texas landing and sinking 15 to 20 yards offshore in nine to 12 feet deep water. Inside the van were five passengers, 6 months to 26 years in age. The van landed within 30 feet of the starting line where graduate and undergraduate participants of the regatta were preparing a start. Approximately 40 seconds later the non-English-speaking driver emerged from the sunken van. Bilingual sailors ascertained there were still five occupants remaining in the van. Participants in the regatta dove into the 60-degree water to the submerged van and made continual, repeated dives with visibility of less than 12 inches to rescue the trapped occupants.

Failing to get the doors or windows open, the rescuers called for rocks from shore which they utilized, along with an anchor, to smash the windows. The sailors spent approximately 10 minutes recovering the remaining victims, all of whom were unconscious. All five occupants were administered CPR and first aid on shore by the sailor rescuers, and it was during this time that emergency vehicles arrived.

All the victims were transported to the hospital and were determined to be in critical condition. By April, 2002, all were released from the hospital with good prognoses. Many of the rescuers received cuts and abrasions from the glass, and have recovered fully. Local emergency response professionals are amazed that no rescuers were themselves drowned, as the statistics for rescuers becoming trapped underwater are alarming.

The US Sailing Arthur B. Hanson Rescue Medal is given to skippers of pleasure boats or race support vessels who effect rescues of victims from the water. The award is made for rescues in U.S. waters, or in races that originate or terminate in a U.S. port. The Rescue Medal has been in existence for 12 years and is administered by US Sailing’s Safety-at-Sea Committee (SASC).

More information about the Arthur B. Hanson Rescue Medal can be found at US Sailing's website at www.ussailing.org/safety/Rescues/hansonstories.htm. The Rescue Medal recognizes acts of exemplary seamanship, and the award
process is also used by the SASC as a way to gain more education about rescues at sea. The data and stories of award nominees are studied carefully for the common practices that contribute to, or deter from, the success of a rescue operation.

Born December 8, 1916, Arthur B. "Tim" Hanson started sailing as a child at his family’s home on the Chesapeake Bay. He continued the sport during his years at Cornell University and the College of William and Mary. In 1963, Hanson purchased Figaro III, a 47.5-foot Sparkman and Stephens yawl, and renamed it Foolscap. He sailed every Newport-Bermuda Race from 1964 through 1982; four transatlantic races, including, Bermuda to Travemunde, Germany; Bermuda to Vigo, Spain; Newport to Cork, Ireland; and Bermuda to Khristiansand, Norway. He also raced many Annapolis-Newport and Marblehead-Halifax races and Block Island Race Weeks. In the early 1970s, Hanson tested the first Electronic Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB) on a private yacht during a transatlantic race.

The United States Sailing Association is the national governing body for the sport of sailing, the mission of which is to encourage participation and excellence in sailing and racing in the United States. The organization achieves its goals through member organizations and volunteers, located throughout the United States, who are supported by an administrative staff located at the organization’s headquarters in Portsmouth, Rhode Island. For more information about US SAILING, visit the website at www.ussailing.org or call (401) 683-0800.