Texas man dies during first leg (swimming) of Alcatraz triathlon

lakespraylakespray Member
edited March 2013 in General Discussion
"We have reason to believe the gentleman suffered from a massive cardiac event as he entered the water and began the swim," race officials said in a statement.

Read more: http://www.myfoxdc.com/story/21451717/texas-man-dies-during-first-leg-of-alcatraz-triathlon#ixzz2MbAbYQZQ
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  • HaydnHaydn Member
    This is so sad. What was the water temp? Was this man an experienced cold water swimmer? Was he wearing a wetsuit? Can we find out of he really did have a medical condition? and if not, what risks are still out there for others.
  • evmoevmo Admin
    edited March 2013
    Better coverage in the local paper:

    http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/Man-dies-at-colder-than-normal-triathlon-4324933.php

    http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/Triathlon-victim-was-Texas-attorney-4326475.php

    Incidentally, @Sharko and I were escorting a 2+ hour solo skin swim in the Bay around the same time as the triathlon. We passed by Alcatraz about 15 minutes before the race went off.

    What a clusterf@*#. Hundreds of mostly incompetent swimmers in wetsuits trying to crab across a 4.2-knot ebb tide in choppy 51F water. 150 of them got swept past the finish.
  • "Was it colder than normal? Yes. But in my opinion the water temperature was not a factor at all in this tragedy," race director Bill Burke said Sunday. "This gentleman obviously had a heart condition he was unaware of."

    This sounds like a CYA answer. Austin has some spring fed lakes and pools that might be colder than lots of other areas, but I think it's probably too soon to rule out water temperature as a factor. While 58 is too cold for me, most of the lakes around here (Baton Rouge, LA) and the gulf are around this temperature or higher. It's hard to get acclimatized to cold water living in the south, unless you swim outside through the winter.
  • david_barradavid_barra Charter Member
    edited March 2013
    timsroot said:


    This sounds like a CYA answer. Austin has some spring fed lakes and pools that might be colder than lots of other areas, but I think it's probably too soon to rule out water temperature as a factor. While 58 is too cold for me, most of the lakes around here (Baton Rouge, LA) and the gulf are around this temperature or higher. It's hard to get acclimatized to cold water living in the south, unless you swim outside through the winter.

    This may very well be one of the colder events, but these things happen in water much warmer as well.
    ...anything worth doing is worth overdoing.
  • HaydnHaydn Member
    I believe it was a wetsuit swimmer in 51 F
    So wouldn't really expect a problem, especially if a trained triathlete. But maybe untrained and with a pre existing medical condition, things might be more risky.

    We are aware that cold water shock can trigger heart attack. And maybe a thin wetsuit is of little defence at 51F. Maybe swimmers should not do dive starts but slower getting in and lining up starts to force a slow entry time and avoid cold water shock and hyperventilating. Especially when immediately racing will also elevate the need for O2, and a heart rate that increases due to adrenalin, racing, and cold, but tries to decrease due to face in the water. The heart really is in a mess for a minute or two.
  • bobswimsbobswims Charter Member
    Here is some information which posted by Stuart McDougal as a comment to the post I made on my FB page:

    "Some more info on this. The swimmer did not die within a minute after the jump - I thought that just didn't sound right, especially with all the kayaks and watercraft within yards of the jump. Turns out another mostly distressed swimmer, resorting to breaststroke found him face down 1/2 mile into the swim. Turned him over and he was blue. Waved over kayak's and tried to admin cpr. Motorcraft arrived, loaded him on boat and continued cpr, but was already too late. The swimmer that found him and tried to resuscitate was one from our Disney Tri Team."
  • NiekNiek Member
    edited March 2013

    Turns out another mostly distressed swimmer, resorting to breaststroke found him face down 1/2 mile into the swim. Turned him over and he was blue. Waved over kayak's and tried to admin cpr

    What were the kayakers doing that they didn't notice this themselves?

    Looks to me that too many were in the water at the same time compared to the safety crafts available. Might be time to start thinking of less instead of more competitors.
    http://openwaterswimming.eu - Cold, wind, waves, sunburn, currents, jellyfish and flotsam! Hop in and join the fun!
  • I think I'll stay retired. :-h
  • bobswimsbobswims Charter Member
    edited March 2013
    This is what it looked like the year I did it (shortly before returning to swimming). I started about in the middle of the 1600 people who started and passed nearly 700 of them. Many people overshot the finish on the outgoing tide. I took a consevative line and I stayed far left, hitting my exit perfectly. And in case you are wondering, I did wear a wetsuit.


  • An article on the deceased triathlete in the local Austin TX paper:

    http://www.statesman.com/news/sports/austin-attorney-who-died-during-triathlon-remember/nWgZq/
  • Check out the guy at 0:10. He can hardly swim! Most of these people had no business being out there.

  • NiekNiek Member
    See how long it takes before the peddle boarder gets the help she's signalling for.
    This event surely has too many competitors with not enough help on the water.
    http://openwaterswimming.eu - Cold, wind, waves, sunburn, currents, jellyfish and flotsam! Hop in and join the fun!
  • loneswimmerloneswimmer Admin
    edited March 2013
    @evmo That's terrifying. The guy from 0:10 has moved maybe 10 metres to the right & not progressed at all after another minute. The SUP has 3 people hanging off the board. You are absolutely right that they shouldn't have been out, (and this isn't terribly rough water by most of our standards, just choppy and a bit of work).

    Not being familiar with how this is run, are there any open water qualification swims required? If so what's the standard? The goal shouldn't be to the get the maximum number of people in, but instead a maximum number of qualified and capable swimmers.
  • IronMikeIronMike Bishkek, KyrgyzstanCharter Member
    My limited experience with "triathlon open water swims," this isn't uncommon.
  • HaydnHaydn Member
    For a low standard swimmer in what looks to be very windy, noisy, cold it looks pretty bad conditions to me. Think the swimmer at 10 must have been scared . A real swimmer would have laughed at the excitement of the conditions.
  • Does anyone know if they require a Doctor's health certificate for this event. Just because you exercise a lot doesn't necessarily mean your blood pressure, cholesterol, etc, are good. If a person was a little on the high side with their blood pressure and they stuck their unacclimated face in 51 F water, that might be enough to cause a heart attack.
    You can tell a bunch of them didn't do enough or any acclimation swims because they can't bear to put their face down in the water and go. 51 F water is serious business. To attempt that swim without acclimation is absolutely insane.
    When someone dies and leaves behind a nice family, there has to be a rule change. If not already required, I think a qualification swim and a health certificate should be mandatory! The qualification swim temp could be changed each year depending on the month they plan on running the race. Lastly, the kayakers should all be required to wear wet suits. The paddler in the video didn't look like she was wearing one. If a rogue wave or too many hanger ons knocked her off, she'd need rescuing also. 51F water is really serious business.
  • heartheart Member
    Looks like it was a fairly choppy day in the bay, too.
  • Despite growth of OW only, comparing triathlon to OW is like comparing Home Depot to your locally owned hardware store. Triathlon is big business and they don’t like turning away customers.

    One clearly different rule in triathlon as versus OW only is a swimmer is allowed to hang onto a escorts paddle board, kayak, boat etc., as long as they don’t advance there position (wink wink) without disqualification. In our world this is clearly a disqualification but in Tri world it’s actually encouraged, I have no doubt this was mentioned several times in pre-race meetings and on the ferry ride out.
  • WaterGirlWaterGirl Charter Member


    Haydn said:
    Think the swimmer at 10 must have been scared . A real swimmer would have laughed at the excitement of the conditions.

    Physiologically, I'm not sure there's a difference between fear and excitement.

    According to this AARP article, 2.2% of heart attacks occur during sex. They call that a small percentage. http://www.aarp.org/home-family/sex-intimacy/info-01-2013/can-sex-give-me-a-heart-attack.html


  • bobswimsbobswims Charter Member
    Bear in mind that the common mind set for many triathletes (in many triathlons) is if I can "survive' the swim I'll be able to finish the race. So they focus their swim preparation on being able to survive. Unfortunately making it worse, for the most part they do their training in a pool. I have no doubt as well that athletes were told to seek out and hold onto support personel to rest if they wish. I have heard this instruction given at every race. I have argued strenuously against this philosophy on tri forums online, and always get criticized for discouraging people from doing the race unless they can be sure of completing the swim unaided. Guilty as charged!
  • WaterGirlWaterGirl Charter Member

    Bear in mind that the common mind set for many triathletes (in many triathlons) is if I can "survive' the swim I'll be able to finish the race. So they focus their swim preparation on being able to survive. Unfortunately making it worse, for the most part they do their training in a pool. I have no doubt as well that athletes were told to seek out and hold onto support personnel to rest if they wish. I have heard this instruction given at every race. I have argued strenuously against this philosophy on tri forums online, and always get criticized for discouraging people from doing the race unless they can be sure of completing the swim unaided.

    I mostly agree with this statement, but the reports I've seen of triathlon swim deaths haven't fit into this category. I can't think of any incidents where a newbie swimmer has died. (Surprising as that may be.)

    I think it boils down to this: There is some level of cardiac risk in open water swimming. Wetsuits, cold water, mass starts, race-day excitement/anxiety, water conditions, confusion about the course, disorganization, etc. may exacerbate those risks.

    Mountain climbing, hiking, and cycling are much riskier than open water swimming. I'll bet we have more cyclist and hiker fatalities here in the Phoenix area in one year than the entire history of open water triathlon swim deaths.

    A person can die while open water swimming. It's a very small risk, but it's a risk. The athlete and the race organizers are not necessarily to blame.

    p.s. Hot water is a different story. I blame the race organizers for Fran Crippen's death.
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