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51-year-old triathlete dies during Ponte Vedra Beach race

Rescuers pulled him out of the water at Mickler’s Landing and tried to revive him

The water was rough in the swimming portion of the triathlon in St. Johns County and a 51-year-old athlete had to be pulled from the water. A medical professional at the event tried to revive him with CPR. Lifeguards and firefighters took over but he later died at the hospital.
The water was rough in the swimming portion of the triathlon in St. Johns County and a 51-year-old athlete had to be pulled from the water. A medical professional at the event tried to revive him with CPR. Lifeguards and firefighters took over but he later died at the hospital.

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – A 51-year-old man died Sunday after a “medical incident” during a triathlon in Ponte Vedra Beach.

The man’s name hasn’t been released, but he was part of the Game On! Ponte Vedra Beach Tri which attracted hundreds of athletes who biked, swam and ran.

Rescuers pulled him out of the water at Mickler’s Landing and tried to revive him, but he died at the hospital.

A medical professional at the event, who asked not to be identified, said he tried to revive the swimmer with CPR right away. He worked for several minutes until lifeguards and firefighters took over with life-saving techniques. Rescuers took him to the hospital where he died.

Organizers with Game On said in a Facebook post the man “experienced a medical emergency,” adding “we share our deepest condolences with his family and friends and respect their privacy during this difficult time.”

They did not return a call, text or email for comment on Monday. A spokesperson for the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office confirmed the death and noted foul play was not suspected, but said no more details could be released as it was an active investigation.

Participants and bystanders told us conditions were less than ideal, but there were lifeguards at the event, even though the beach isn’t typically guarded this time of year. It’s unclear if conditions at the time were a factor or not.

A few made comments that the water was too rough and the competition should have been postponed or called off.

The Weather Authority had been tracking dangerous conditions over the weekend.

“I pulled up the beach report from yesterday, right now it says there is a red flag warning along our beaches, high surf and strong rip currents,” said News4Jax Meteorologist Danielle Uliano. “They reported surf at the beach around 2 to 4 feet. For some people that could be rough surf out there.”

USA Triathlons oversees events like this. News4Jax reached out to the organization’s leaders for comment, with questions about safety protocols and health evaluations. So far, leadership has not responded.

Deaths during triathlons are relatively rare, but they happen for a number of reasons. A man died in Ironman race in Augusta just two weeks ago.

Minnesota Heart Institute Foundation researchers studied triathletes and found 135 died in the past 31 years.

The average victim was 47-years-old; 80% were male and two-thirds happened during the swim portion.


About the Author:

Lifetime Jacksonville resident anchors the 8 and 9 a.m. weekday newscasts and is part of the News4Jax I-Team.