Texas man dies during Alcatraz triathlon

March, 3, 2013
3/03/13
10:28
PM ET
SAN FRANCISCO -- A 46-year-old Texas man died of an apparent heart attack Sunday in the frigid waters of San Francisco Bay just moments after the start of the Escape From Alcatraz Triathlon, race officials said.

"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.

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The race was held three months earlier than previous years and in far colder waters, but organizers said the temperature did not contribute to the death.

"Was it colder than normal? Yes. But in my opinion, the water temperature was not a factor at all in this tragedy," Bill Burke, the race's director, told the San Francisco Chronicle. "The gentleman obviously had a heart condition he was unaware of."

Organizers said the death was the first in the 33-year history of the event, which begins with a 1.5-mile swim from the island home of the former federal prison. The swimming portion is followed by an 18-mile bike ride and an 8-mile run through Golden Gate Park and along the San Francisco coast.

The race had participants from around the world ranging from 13 to 80 years old. The winner was Javier Gomez of Spain.

The triathlon's water safety team noticed the man in distress shortly after the 7:30 a.m. start of the race, the statement said. They performed CPR on the unidentified man while pulling him to shore and after reaching land, but he could not be revived.

In all, rescuers pulled about 150 swimmers from the swim portion of the race, more than three times the normal number, Burke said. Water temperatures were about 51 degrees, air temperatures hovered in the mid-50s, and 11 mph winds made the air feel closer to the mid-40s.

Normally, when the race is held in June, the bay is anywhere from 54 to 60 degrees, and air temperatures can be in the 70s or higher.

The triathlon was rescheduled this year because of conflicts with the America's Cup. Next year the event will return to June, Burke said.

-- Associated Press

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