On the afternoon of December 14, 2017 with the air temperature at 60 degrees, water temperature at 50 degrees, wind speed at 10 knots, and foot-high waves, a 56-year-old man named Christian Einfeldt, was swimming less than half a mile from the beach at Aquatic Park Cove. The experienced swimmer stopped after 30 strokes to see if a predator was following him and he spotted a sea lion 6-feet away. Knowing that they usually attack the legs, he pulled himself into a ball. The sea lion began swaying its head side to side and attacked Einfeldt while he attempted to fend off the animal with his arms. The sea lion bit into his elbow, creating a deep wound, cutting a blood vessel and shredding his skin. The attack lasted approximately four seconds.
About 200 yards away, Roger van Hertsen and his father Evrard van Hertsen were weighing anchor on the Beneteau 37, Grey Goose, and starting to move. Roger observed what he thought were two human heads, with one disappearing under the surface. When it resurfaced, he realized it was a sea lion. Einfeldt called out that he was bitten, and the van Hertsens pulled alongside which scared the sea lion away, dropped the permanent boarding ladder on the transom and helped Einfeldt on deck.
At first, the injury did not seem severe and Einfeldt considered swimming to the beach. As blood covered the deck, it was clear that he should not re-enter the water. Grey Goose called the U.S. Coast Guard and were advised to go to Pier 45. They identified where to go and turned in that direction. Einfeldt applied gauze to put pressure on the wound and elevated his arm above his head. Grey Goose arrived at Pier 45 to an awaiting ambulance.
The medical crew of the San Francisco Fire Department immediately secured a tourniquet to Einfeldt’s arm. He was taken to Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital and a doctor from the hospital later tied off the torn vessel to stop the bleeding and surgery was performed to remove the shredded skin. A series of rabies shots were injected into the wound, as well as a rarely used antibiotic to treat Mycoplasma, as sea lions have no enamel on their teeth and can carry this disease. Einfeldt was soon upgraded to stable condition. He never lost consciousness and was released the following day.
US Sailing is pleased to award the Arthur B. Hanson Rescue Medal to Roger van Hertsen and Evrard van Hertsen for maintaining a lookout, coming to the aid of a severely injured swimmer, quickly getting the victim to professional emergency services, and saving Christian Einfeldt.
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. The medal was established in 1990 by friends of the late Mr. Hanson, an ocean-racing sailor from the Chesapeake Bay, with the purpose of recognizing significant accomplishments in seamanship and collecting case studies of rescues for analysis by the Safety at Sea Committee of US Sailing for use in educational and training programs. Any individual or organization may submit a nomination for a Hanson Rescue Medal.
Visit the US Sailing Hanson Rescue Medal website for more information about these awards, including nomination form instructions and guidelines.
For more information, please visit www.ussailing.org.