Perhaps an unlikely spot for heroes is San Quentin Prison, the site of California’s Death Row. Overlooking San Francisco Bay, the waters surrounding the prison became the backdrop for a rescue operation that occurred last Wednesday morning.
More than 5,000 inmates call San Quentin home, but for 16 selected non-violent offenders an old firehouse on prison property is their residence. This crew is trained as paramedics and firefighters and they respond 24/7 to all prison calls and those rare alarms from the bay.
Such an alarm went off last Wednesday and prison fire fighters pulled two boaters, James Laurel, aged 44, and an anonymous woman of about the same age from the cold waters of San Francisco Bay.
Police suspect that the couple had been drinking before they boarded the small craft last Tuesday evening about 10 pm. Laurel had not been wearing a life vest and fell overboard as he was trying to restart the faulty engine. When he tried to climb back on board, the boat capsized and sunk. The two were hurled into the chilly waters where they floundered for about 30 minutes before help finally arrived.
The couple had been out on the open water for about three hours before the boat capsized, and about 1 am a guard from the tower heard their cries for help and saw them in the water not far from the shore. San Quentin’s Engine 23 lost no time in arriving at the scene and prisoner Derrick Edgerly dove in first.
The inmates pulled Laurel to shore over a retaining wall, but he died later at Marin General Hospital. The woman was rescued by the San Rafael Fire Department. She was taken to the hospital, treated for exposure and released.
Everybody deserves a second chance.
That includes these brave firefighters and those that owe their lives to them as they try to make amends for the crimes they have committed and pay their debt to society.