Good Samaritan Sailors Save Distressed Swimmer

By Mark Corke

Quick thinking by a father and son saved the life of a swimmer from an attacking sea lion.

Evrard and Roger van Hertsen

A swimmer is lucky to be alive, thanks to some quick-thinking San Francisco Bay sailors. Christian Einfeldt was swimming less than a half-mile from the beach at Aquatic Park Cove on the San Francisco waterfront when he became aware of a large sea lion stalking him less than 6 feet away. The animal attacked Einfeldt, biting into his elbow and inflicting a deep wound, cutting a blood vessel and shredding his skin.

Roger van Hertsen and his father Evrard were about 200 yards away weighing anchor aboard their Beneteau 37, Grey Goose, when they observed what they believed to be two heads in the water. Einfeldt called out that he was bitten, so the Van Hertens maneuvered their boat close to Einfeldt and scared the sea lion away. Dropping the boarding ladder, they helped the injured swimmer onto the boat.

Initially Einfeldt thought that he would be able to swim back to shore, but his injuries were worse than he thought. The crew of Grey Goose called the U.S. Coast Guard and were advised to go to Pier 45, where the injured swimmer was transferred to a waiting ambulance. Local authorities praised the quick thinking of the sailboat crew and said their actions likely saved Einfeldt’s life.

"The boat saved his life. If the boat hadn't been there, who knows what would have happened," Officer Matthew Reiter told ABC 7 News.

Watch local news coverage of the event:

In recognition of their actions, the Van Hertsens will be honored with the Hanson Rescue Medal, presented by Richard Jepsen, a member of U.S. Sailing’s Board of Directors, at the Pacific Sail and Power Boat Show in Richmond, California, on April 21, 2018.

The Arthur B. Hanson Rescue Medal is awarded 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. 

— Published: April 2018

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