US Sailing will award a Hanson Rescue Medal to six sailors who risked their lives in an attempt to rescue a woman from a minivan that drove into San Francisco Bay on June 21, 2013.The six sailors being honored are members of the American Youth Sailing Force, the Bay Area’s entry in the Red Bull Youth America’s Cup that will be raced in San Francisco this September.
The team was attending a fundraiser at the Golden Gate Yacht Club when the minivan drove off the nearby Marina Green parking lot and into the Bay at a speed estimated at 20 mph.
“We were getting ready for a party when we heard some yelling from over the seawall,” said team supporter Vince Casalaina. “We didn’t know what was going on at first, but then we saw the van as it started to float out away from shore, at which point my team got into our boat.”
The van was settling lower into the water when the six sailors got into their team powerboat. Team captain Ian Andrewes (23, Seattle, Wash.) was steering. “The van was going down at the nose, and the roof was just submerging when we got to it,” said Andrewes. “Before we even slowed down, three of our guys were in the water with tools. They were able to get on the car and start smashing the window, but unfortunately they couldn’t get the window to break completely. They were pounding the windows as hard as they could.”
Team members David Liebenberg (21, Livermore, Calif.), Tommy Pastalka (22, Belvedere, Calif.), and Evan Sjostedt (20, Long Beach, Calif.) jumped off the boat, swam to the van, and attempted to break its rear window and open a door. Mikey Radziekowski (21, Berkeley, Calif.) served as spotter on the Protector and team videographer Nick Andrewes (27, Seattle, Wash.) served as deckhand.
The driver in the van was pleading for help as the van sank. Divers later located the van in approximately 20 feet of water about 150 feet off shore. The driver did not survive the accident. San Francisco police recovered the van and the body the next day.
The only injury to the rescuers during the incident was suffered by Tommy Pastalka, whose hands were cut while he tried to break through the windshield.
The Arthur B. Hanson Rescue Medal is awarded by US Sailing’s Safety-at-Sea Committee to any person who rescues or endeavors to rescue any other person from drowning, shipwreck, or other perils at sea within the territorial waters of the United States, or as part of a sailboat race or voyage that originated or stopped in the U.S. Since it was established in 1990 by friends of the late Mr. Hanson, an ocean-racing sailor from the Chesapeake Bay, the Arthur B. Hanson Rescue Medal has been presented to more than 170 boats. Any individual or organization may submit a nomination for a Hanson Rescue Medal.