Triathlete Dies During Swim Portion of Escape From Alcatraz Race

A 46-year-old man from Austin, Texas, died of a heart attack during the swim portion of the Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon in San Francisco, the first fatality in the event’s 33-year history.

Race organizers said the competitor, who wasn’t identified, suffered a “massive cardiac event” yesterday morning as he started the 1 1/2-mile (2.4-kilometer) swim in San Francisco Bay off Alcatraz Island. The water temperature was approximately 51 degrees Fahrenheit (10.5 Celsius).

“Safety is always our top priority in a race like this,” Race director Bill Burke said in an e-mailed statement. “Water safety noticed him immediately and initiated CPR while he was in the water and as they transferred him to land.”

More than 2,000 amateur and professional athletes ranging in age from 13 to 80 competed in the triathlon, which featured a 18-mile bike ride and an 8-mile run through San Francisco following the swim in the choppy currents off Alcatraz Island.

The race was won by Spain’s Javier Gomez, who captured a silver medal in triathlon at the 2012 London Olympics, while Heather Jackson of the U.S. won the women’s division.

Yesterday’s death was the latest in the sport and came less than seven months after a 43-year-old man died during New York’s first Ironman-length race. In 2011, two competitors died during the swim portion of the Olympic-distance New York City triathlon.

USA Triathlon in October 2012 released a study that found 30 of 43 athlete fatalities that occurred in triathlons from 2003 through 2011 happened during the swim portion of the race. The study found most triathlon-related deaths were caused by sudden cardiac incidents and that course conditions didn’t play a role.