A Washington D.C. attorney active in his local rowing club and who once represented a client in the seizure of the former presidential yacht died today at Allegheny General Hospital after he collapsed and tumbled from his boat at the start of the Head of the Ohio rowing competition.
Stuart C. Law, 79, was pronounced dead after another rower dove into the waters of the Allegheny River and kept Mr. Law afloat until rescue boats could arrive.
The Allegheny County Medical Examiner's office is investigating.
Mr. Law collapsed just as the single-rower scull races were set to start around 9 a.m. this morning. In 1989, Mr. Law, representing the Potomac Boat Club, won the Grand Masters Men's Single Scull competition national title.
He was a 1950 graduate of Yale University and practiced law in Washington D.C.
"It's not clear what happened," said Richard A. Linn, district chief with the city's EMS. "Apparently he was rowing just below the 40th Street Bridge and just rolled off the boat. Another scull went over to help him up."
Witnesses saw Mr. Law tumble from his boat and an unidentified woman leapt from her own scull and swam to his rescue. She pulled him to the surface until two men in a single engine boat pulled him onto their craft. One began performing cardio pulmonary resuscitation.
A River Rescue unit quickly arrived at the scene and the crew there took him aboard and raced to the hospital while applying advanced life support, Mr. Linn said.
The races, being held just off Washington's Landing, halted briefly during the rescue.
In 1983, Mr. Law represented a fuel company that seized the Sequoia, the former presidential yacht often used by President Richard M. Nixon, after its new owners failed to pay for 1,345 gallons of diesel fuel.
At the time, he used an "admiralty attachment," a specialized area of the federal law.
While the Sequoia case garnered him small attention, it was Mr. Law's attachment to scull racing - a rowing competition in which a competitor sits in a slender, pointed craft and rows facing backward - that remained his area of prominence.
He was a regular entrant in the Head of the Potomac scull races, in which he used his own innovation: attaching a rearview mirror to a headband to perfect his steering.
In a 1987 interview with The Washington Post, Mr. Law conceded that the sport was grueling.
"But, you say to yourself 'nobody ever, ever quits,'" he added.