Death Strikes During Ironman NYC Swim

The Associated Press reported that a contestant who "experienced distress," was pulled from the swim at the Ironman U.S. Championship in New York City and taken to a hospital in Englewood, New Jersey but did not survive.

The New York Times reported that a male triathlete was pulled from the water by lifeguards and emergency personnel performed CPR on the man near the exit of the swim before loading him into an ambulance.

Race officials told the AP that the cause of death is unknown and an autopsy is planned.

In its Monday edition, a Hong Kong newspaper, The Standard, reported that the triathlete was senior police officer Andy Naylor, 43, of the Hong Kong Criminal Intelligence Bureau.

Naylor was taking part in the 2.4-mile swim in the Hudson River which ran along the New Jersey shoreline just north of the George Washington Bridge. Race organizers issued a statement of sympathy to Naylor’s friends and family: "On behalf of all of us in the triathlon community, we mourn his death and send our condolences to his family and loved ones."

The Standard reported that Naylor was on vacation when he entered and started the Ironman. Naylor had worked in the Hong Kong Police Special Duties Unit and the Police Tactical Unit. Naylor was a veteran of police and open sports competitions and had won his category in Hong Kong’s Dowman Road Race in 2007—an event open to police officers in Hong Kong. The Standard reported that Naylor finished the 11.4km race in 36 minutes and 37 seconds.

A more personal picture of Naylor came from his friend David Gething while posting on the Slowtwitch Reader Forum.

“I thought I should let people know what happened. I hope then people can remember him and respect him.

“My friend and I flew into town from overseas especially for this event. This was the sporting highlight of his year. He was one of the fittest people that I knew. Ex-special forces, counter terrorism and senior law enforcement, trained in surviving in adverse situations including in water. He was also an accomplished athlete, a 2:30 marathoner and was always on the podium. Most importantly, he was a loving husband and a father of three young girls. He was the guy who was always there to help, no matter how big or small the problem was, and was one of the pillars of our community.

“We started the day together and he was fine. We talked for a long time before the race. When we got on the starting barge together he had a grin from ear to ear. He shook my hand, said "good luck, see you on the finish line", and we jumped in together. I never saw him again. They pulled me aside at T2 and told me, then took me back to our wives and children.

“From what I saw the race was well organized, well handled and they did everything correctly. We can't come to terms with what happened, especially to someone who was at the top of their game in life as a father, husband, member of our community and as an athlete.”

Several deaths have occurred in triathlons in the past few years, almost all of which have occurred during the swim start. Two people died in the Nautica New York City Triathlon swim last summer and a man died in the 2008 edition of the race. Last summer, five deaths occurred in triathlons in the U.S. and USA Triathlon created a task force to investigate the fatalities.

In November 2011, the Washington Post printed an article entitled "Deaths in triathlons may not be so mysterious; panic attacks may be to blame." The article noted that there were 9 deaths that occurred during triathlons in 2011, and 8 of them occurred during the swim. The article also noted that deaths occurred in triathlon at a higher rate per participant than comparable mass participation endurance sports.