SAN QUENTIN STATE PRISON (CBS 5) — On April 19, nearly a dozen San Quentin inmates pulled two people from the frigid waters of the San Francisco Bay.

Marin County resident James Laurel and a female friend had taken a motorboat out on the bay. The boat developed engine trouble and later capsized. A guard at San Quentin’s Tower Three heard the couple’s cries for help from the water and sounded the alarm.

Ten ‘lesser risk’ inmates from the prison’s firehouse and several prison employees pulled the two victims from bay waters using fire hoses. None of the inmates had previous open water rescue training.

“He was unresponsive. I held his head above the water. At the same time I was trying to feel for a pulse,” said inmate Derrick Edgerly. “At that time the captain was making a loop in the hose to pull him up.”

Laurel was transported to Marin General Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

His female friend survived.

Some of the inmates, who live 24 hours a day at the firehouse, may be released early due to their heroic efforts that night.

(Copyright 2011 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

Comments (24)
  1. Timothy Corey says:

    This only goes to prove that convicts are human and should be treated as such.

    1. Don says:

      Whatever. Let’s see how many re-offend and are sent back. One act does null the crime that sent them there.

      1. C.Manson says:

        Wow! Relax a little, Don. How much you got left on your parole? Bitter & cynical is a sorry way to go through life. Lighten up & have some faith, for cryin’ out loud!

      2. Bobby says:

        This one act will certainly give them the confidence and empathy required to reintegrate into society. These many are heroes.

    2. Patricia says:

      good for those guys for jumping in and trying to save the man, and saving the womans life, they did not hesitate. we all make mistakes in life and pay in one way or another, we should not judge anyone. this is a good story, it is too bad the man did not make it although they tryed hard to save him. Great job to all.

      1. Mrs. Laurel says:

        I must stress once again.They saved my life….There is not words to exspress how deep of a meaning that has to me.. I thank them and god every day. I think we ALL make mistakes in life and hopefully we learn from them. They are worthy of a second chance everyone is….It does show at least me, that even some one in prison who made a mistake is human with the same feelings and empathy that we all have.. THEY are heros… They did not hesitate for a minute to risk their own lives to jump in the very cold 43 degree water to save my boyfriend…..No we were not standing on the shore..We were in the water at a 20 foot sea wall…
        To get him out of the water they had to jump in and tie a fire hose around him..Then get themselves back over the wall. No easy task. Also to perform CPR . It is tragic he did not survive.. We were 5 miles out for 2 and 1/2 hours. I did all I could to get him to safety.. Another 5 minutes and I would not have made it. THANK YOU GUYS YOU ARE ALL HERO’S

  2. Give 'em a break says:

    Most of these low risk inmates are in prison for drug and/or alcohol related offences and are considered non violent.

    1. M. Bills says:

      Drug and alcohol abuse are directly or indirectly responsible for the majority of crime in America. Is a drunk behind the wheel of a 3000 lb car really considered non-violent???

      1. INtheknow says:

        The folks in prison for drug and/or alcohol related offenses are not there for drunk driving…they are there becasue they got caught using, possessing, transporting, and/or selling drugs. Is a guy who is caught on the corner selling nickle bags of weed a violent felon????

  3. joubaur says:

    There are a lot of other deserving convicts inside.
    Admittedly, there are also some we should probably never let out.
    Nevertheless, we need to start more rehabilitation, and reintegration into society, of our criminals.
    To throw them away forever based on one mistake, as our society does now by not reintegrating them, wastes our only true natural resource, human beings.
    Many of them get out and try to fit in and make it, yet society often rejects them or makes it too difficult to build something new, so they eventually re-offend.
    If we reintegrate them, they help pay societies bills, instead of being one of those bills.

    1. Jocelyn Beverly says:

      I agree with you. thank you for putting it into perspective.

  4. M. Bills says:

    Keep Them Locked Up

    The prison sentence isn’t just about punishing the law breakers. It’s about making their lives miserable enough that other’s in society will never risk breaking the law. Country club prison conditions in the US are why we have the highest incarceration and reincarceration rate in the world.

    1. Bill says:

      M. Bills, I agree that part of prison is about presenting a consequence that deters others from offending. I do not agree that “Country Club Prisons” are to blame for our high incarceration rates. You can blame our absurd drug laws, the lack of access to drug addiction treatment, and the lack of access to deent education and job opportunities for that. I do subscribe to the old adage” Do the crime…then do the time”, because people need to know that there are consequences for their actions. Still….while you are doign the time they need to teach you something, give you some trainign or education that will give you a chance once you get out

    2. Kay says:

      Obviously M. Bills has never spent any time in prison. “Country club” prison conditions, indeed.

      (And apparently it has never crossed M. Bills mind that claiming that US prisons are “country clubs” actually defeats the purpose of trying to convince “other’s in society [to] never risk breaking the law”. I mean, if you keep telling those other people that prisons are country clubs, where’s the incentive to avoid going?????)

    3. Allison says:

      @ M. Bills, incarceration has never been an effective deterrent here in America or elsewhere. What we need are more productive members of society, which these inmates can become, they just have to be given a chance to start over.

  5. Roxy Jimenez says:

    that’s great… they are heros and should be treated so… they could have just let them both die… good work guys 😉

  6. Marvin Tillman says:

    I think it was a good move by the system. Like they said these were lesser offense criminals and everything doesn’t have to be by the book.

  7. NJV says:

    Look like our justice system are on the right track. Finally. Everyone deserves a second chance. Good luck and may God keep you on the right path.

  8. patrick says:

    in the end, most ppl will react to a dangerous situation with total abandon for there own safety. it is a natural reaction. these gentlemen had no reason to help, they just reacted. kudos fellas !! and thanks for the renued faith in the human race.

  9. Thelma Davis says:

    Who cares if they are convicts, they helped save someones life. If I find myself in a life or death situation I hope someone like these men are around to help me. One seems to forget that these men also placed themselves in danger. So if these “lesser risk” inmates are getting a reduction in their sentences for helping to save someone’s life and placing their own in danger, they deserve it.

  10. LE Officer says:

    Simple lesson. Pnishment for donig something bad. Rewarded for doing something good. I wish these guys the best of luck for a brighter future

  11. suzyq says:

    This is great! For once, a story about the bad guys doing good! It is sorrowful that society continues to convict these individuals even after they have paid their debt to society. We hark on “rehabilitate” and re-integrate. For what? They apply for jobs only to never receive employment because just like any other sterotype, americans can’t let go and move on. So quick to judge. Great job guys, and I hope you can finally find your place in society.

  12. John says:

    They were given a chance to do something good and they responded. What more could “Society” want from a convict? There is something worth saving in these that tried to help others in a terrible situation. Cut them loose but with the stipulation that they will do 80% or more of their time if they come back. Just don’t come back… ever.

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