At Texas A&M University Galveston's Graduation Ceremony on May 11, 2002, the United States Sailing Association will present the Arthur B. Hanson Rescue Medal to the Rescuers at Texas A&M University of Galveston “Open Team Race”.
For the rescuers' significant courage, seamanship, and compassion, and incredible spontaneous coordination, US Sailing will present the Rescue Medal to the sailor 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 alleged suicidal man drove his minivan at a high rate of speed into Offats Bayou in Galveston Bay, Texas landing and sinking 15-20 yards offshore in 9-12 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 second's later the non-English speaking driver, emerged from the sunken van. Bilingual sailors ascertained there were still 5 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 was delivered, 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 twelve years and is administered by US Sailing's Safety-at-Sea Committee (SASC).