On Saturday, Feb. 23, during a team race event hosted by the Texas A&M; University at Galveston Sailing Team, Jose Rodriguez, of Houston, Texas, drove a minivan carrying his wife, infant daughter, his wife’s cousin, and her two children into Offatts Bayou, submerging the vehicle and seriously injuring five people. Rodriguez drove the van at high speed off a dead-end road, and witnesses say it flew an estimated 15 to 20 yards over the water, before sinking nine feet beneath the surface. Team racers who witnessed the event sailed their boats over to the spot where the van had sank. SEISA President and Texas A&M; University Sailing Team Captain Jake Scott was the first in the water. Shortly thereafter, Rodriguez surfaced, and was pulled into a 420 by a pair of sailors. They asked him in English and Spanish if there were other people in the van. When Rodriguez said that two children were trapped inside, eight sailors jumped in the 60-degree water to free them. Unable to open the doors and windows of the van on their own, the sailors called for rocks from shore to smash the glass windows, and were handed an anchor from a nearby committee boat.
It took approximately 10 minutes for the sailors to bring the five remaining passengers, all of whom were unconscious, to the surface. The victims were brought to shore and administered CPR and first aid until rescue vehicles arrived on the scene.
The seven month old baby girl, who was trapped in her carseat, was the hardest passenger to rescue. She was underwater for an estimated time of five minutes and stopped breathing until she arrived at the hospital.
None of the rescuers were seriously injured, yet several received lacerations from breaking the glass of the windows. “It wasn’t one, two, or three people who were heroes,” said Scott. “It was everyone, from the people on land who called 911 and administered CPR to the people who put the boats away. Everyone present was a hero.” The rescuers names are being withheld pending a criminal hearing for Rodriguez.