Barnegat Bay rescuers are honored

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US Sailing awards Hanson medals to sailors in three separate crew-overboards

Two sailing coaches, a photographer and a cruising couple were recently awarded medals by US Sailing for their heroic actions in three separate incidents involving the rescue of mariners who fell overboard last year.

Coaches Jim Roe and Ryan Miller were awarded Arthur B. Hanson rescue medals for aiding fellow coach Becky Mergenthaler who was tossed into Barnegat Bay when the 13-foot Boston Whaler she was operating was hit by an unexpected wave.

The coaches were returning to Barnegat Light Yacht Club after a youth competition July 2, 2003. After falling overboard, Mergenthaler was knocked unconscious when the uncontrolled Whaler hit her twice. Mergenthaler was wearing a PFD. Fellow coaches Jim Roe and Ryan Miller, occupying a second coach boat, took quick action. When the renegade Whaler was on its third rotation approaching the victim, Roe intentionally drove his boat into the Whaler, forcing the Whaler to change direction. Miller quickly pulled the unconscious Mergenthaler out of the water. Another coach boat nearby alerted emergency services, and New Jersey State Marine Police and the U.S. Coast Guard quickly responded. Mergenthaler recovered completely.

The coaches were honored Jan. 13 at Spray Beach Yacht Club in Beach Haven, N.J.

In a separate incident, Kevin and Karen Kelly were cruising California’s Joaquin River Aug. 12 in their 26-foot Clipper Marine when they noticed a disabled powerboat and a number of people in the water nearby.

Upon reaching the powerboat, the Kellys found a 9-year-old girl and two teenage boys in the water attempting to keep their uncle afloat. Only the girl and one of the boys were wearing PFDs. There were also people aboard the powerboat.

The victims did not speak English, but luckily the Kellys were able to give directions in the victims’ native language. The teenage boys helped the young girl onto the Kellys’ boat, then the Kellys helped lift the boys aboard. The Kellys also deployed a rope ladder, which the uncle grabbed.

The Kellys also gave the uncle a PFD. The victim’s family managed to start the powerboat’s engine and came along side the Kellys’ boat. Using the powerboat’s swim platform and a metal ladder, the uncle was able to climb back onto his powerboat, after having spent 30 minutes in the 60-degree water.

The Kellys were presented the Hanson award during US Sailing’s National Sailing Programs Symposium in Oakland, Calif.

In the third incident, Eric Willis was photographing the One-Design series of Santa Cruz (Calif.) Yacht Club Sept. 20, 2003. Willis was on board a rigid inflatable boat when he noticed the crew of a Santa Cruz 27 attempting to rescue a man overboard. Unable to rescue the victim, the crew asked Willis to help them in the recovery. Willis pulled the victim, who was wearing a PFD, out of the water and onto his boat. The victim had been in the cold, 58-degree water for five minutes and was showing symptoms of hypothermia. Willis took the victim to Santa Cruz Yacht Club to be treated. n