Paraplegic, Angela Mantsen was a six-time Guinness World Record holder in the middle of the effort for her next feat: becoming the first paraplegic and elderly woman to reach California from Hawaii.
“He told us again and again that if he died trying, that’s how he wanted to go,” Madsen and Simi wrote in their letter.
The two wrote that solo rowing in the ocean was Manchen’s biggest goal and that she was willing to take that risk because “being at sea made her happier than anything else.”
“Angela was a warrior, as tough as they come,” they wrote. “A life forged by incredible difficulties, she overcame it all and defended the exact course she had envisioned for herself since she was a little girl.”
A tragic journey
Mantsen’s trip was the subject of a documentary, and she often checked in with her wife Debra and filmmakers via satellite.
She left Los Angeles and paddled about 1,114 nautical miles, which was 1,275 nautical miles from her destination in Honolulu. Mantsen was alone at sea for 60 days.
On Sunday, June 21, Mantsen checked in via satellite and said she was going to the water to fix her anchor. After not hearing from Madsen for several hours, a search and rescue operation was launched. An aircraft was sent and a cargo ship was changed to find it. The Coast Guard discovered her body, the letter said.
“A life forged by incredible difficulty”
Mantsen served as a sailor in her 20s when she suffered a back injury and had to undergo corrective surgery on her back. However, surgery errors have left her paraplegic.
While with the US National Team, Mantsen won four gold medals and one silver medal at the World Championships during her career. He would go to the Paralympics three times where he won a bronze medal in rowing and shooting, the director said.
“I know that whatever my purpose in this life, my body with different abilities, physical challenge, broken, beaten, seems to be the vehicle needed to achieve this. I may suffer from pain and not walk upright in this life, but when I go home, I will not be able to walk through the gate. I can live with that. If I could go back and change things, I wouldn’t. It would be nice not to suffer so much, but that’s the way it is. At first, I was angry. But now, I fully understand, “Mantsen wrote in her memoir Rowing Against the Wind. “
Matsen was an LOAT activist serving as the mayor of Long Beach Pride Parade in 2015. He was also a champion of disability rights.
CNN’s Homero De La Fuente contributed to this report.