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Athletes help rescue two during IRONMAN race, two taken to hospital, one dead

UPDATE — Nearly 1,300 athletes set out to challenge themselves in the IRONMAN 70.3 in Madison.

But it turned deadly shortly after the race started, when paramedics had to rescue two swimmers.

“They clearly had a mission and were doing what they were supposed to do,” Jeffery Perkins, there watching his son race, said.

He saw the first rescue.

“I can’t overstate how urgent they were acting,” Perkins said. “They went immediately into CPR on the gentleman and it was intense.”

It wasn’t just paramedics out on scene, some of the athletes turned around in the middle of their race to help bring the two people back to shore.

“I think there were at least a couple that swam back and helped out with this gentleman,” Perkins said. “Those are the people I want watching over me, that’s exactly what I thought.”

It wasn’t enough to help.

According to the Madison Fire Department, the first man pulled out of the lake later died.

The second was in critical condition Sunday.

Fire officials say they don’t believe it was drowning-related, but that they suffered a medical emergency while in the lake.

They say the incidents were not related as they happened an hour apart.

Perkins says even though this was a half IRONMAN, it shouldn’t be taken lightly.

“I think everyone certainly has a right to attempt it but it should be thought about a couple of times because it really is a stressful situation,” he said.

In a statement sent out Sunday afternoon, IRONMAN officials said, “The well-being of our competitors is paramount and we are grateful for the effort and quick support of medical personnel.”

Fire officials say the race was not put on hold for the rescues.

A 2016 study found there have been 135 deaths during triathlons since 1985.

Most of them happened during the swimming portion.


MADISON (WKOW) — One person has died, and a second remains in critical condition after being rescued from Lake Monona during the IRONMAN 70.3 triathlon Sunday morning, according to the Madison Fire Department.

Officials say the department was notified that an athlete was found unresponsive in the water around 8 a.m., and in need of advanced life support from paramedics.

About an hour later, MFD was notified that a second unresponsive patient was being pulled to shore for similar emergency medical treatment.

Madison fire officials say the death is not considered a drowning at this time, and it is believed that the athlete suffered a medical issue in the water prior to rescue.

IRONMAN officials confirm the two athletes had separate incidents requiring medical attention during the swim portion of the race, saying the surviving person is still receiving treatment at the hospital.

In a statement Sunday afternoon, race officials said they’ll continue supporting the athlete and the athlete’s family, releasing the following message about safety on the course:

The well-being of our competitors is paramount and we are grateful for the effort and quick support of medical personnel. We will continue to work with the local authorities to gather all the details on these incidents and will continue to do everything possible to provide a safe environment for our athletes. In respect of the families and athletes privacy, we will have no further comment at this time.

Jenna Graham

Weekend Assignment Editor

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