UPDATE: The victim has been identified as Ross Ehinger, an attorney from Austin.
Tragedy struck the annual Escape From Alcatraz triathlon just minutes after the race began.
A 46-year-old man from Texas died of a heart attack almost immediately after diving into the freezing San Francisco Bay for the swim portion of the competition.
“We have reason to believe the gentleman suffered from a massive cardiac event as he entered the water and began the swim,” Escape from Alcatraz director Bill Burke said in the statement. “Safety is always our top priority in a race like this. Water safety noticed him immediately and initiated CPR while he was in the water and as they transferred him to land.”
According to Burke, this is the first death in the race's 33-year history.
More than 2,000 triathletes assembled for the annual event, which consists of a 1.5-mile swim to shore, an 18-mile bike ride and an 8-mile run along the water and through Golden Gate Park. While the race usually happens in June, this year's was rescheduled to accommodate the America's Cup, which takes over the San Francisco waterfront this summer.
As a result, participants were exposed to significantly colder conditions. The San Francisco Chronicle reports:
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.
Spain's Javier Gomez took home the top prize, clocking in at two hours, four minutes and 27 seconds. Heather Jackson of San Diego, who completed the event in two hours, 18 minutes and eight seconds, also earned the highest honor.