Greensboro firefighter collapses at Chicago Marathon, dies
Posted October 9, 2011 4:02 p.m. EDT
Updated October 9, 2011 11:03 p.m. EDT
CHICAGO — A 35-year-old North Carolina firefighter who was running for charity died Sunday after collapsing during the Chicago Marathon.
Greensboro Deputy Fire Chief Clarence Hunter said that William Caviness was running to raise money to help burn victims, but declined to talk further. He did read a statement from Chief Gregory Grayson.
"Our hearts and prayers go out to the entire Caviness family in this tremendous loss of Capt. Will Caviness. The Greensboro Fire Department family is grieving this great loss and will strive to support the family through this difficult time."
Hunter said that the department would not have anything further to say until Monday, after talking to the Caviness family.
Race medical director Dr. George Chiampas said the North Carolina man collapsed on the course about 500 yards from the finish line. He said medical personnel were able to get his heart beating again but he died 1 hour, 45 minutes after he was attended to at the race.
"We extend our condolences and thoughts and prayers to the family," race director Carey Pinkowski said.
Chicago police spokesman Darryl Baety said the runner collapsed to the ground around 10:30 a.m. while running on city's near South Side. He was pronounced dead at Mercy Hospital and Medical Center around noon.
The Cook County medical examiner's office said an autopsy is planned for Monday.
Chiampas said five to six emergency medicine doctors in addition to EMS personnel were stationed nearby, and there was "an immediate response, within seconds."
It was the second time in five years that a runner died at Chicago's marquee race.
Chad Schieber, a 35-year-old Michigan police officer and father of three, died during the 2007 marathon, and hundreds of participants collapsed or vomited in scorching, near-90 degree heat. An autopsy blamed his death on a heart condition called mitral valve prolapse, and coroners said tests showed no evidence he was dehydrated.
After Schieber's death, organizers improved communication between various agencies and the runners. They also added more water distribution points and medical aid stations.
The race-time temperature was 64 and reached the high 70s on Sunday afternoon, the fourth time in five years the weather was unusually warm.
Even so, Chiampas said only 54 people were taken by ambulance to the hospital this year, compared to 100 in 2010 and 85 in 2008 under similar conditions.
"Temperature spikes did not occur," Chiampas said. "We had some cool lake breezes that came in toward mid-day and later in the afternoon, which kept us in that yellow (alert level). We never went to red, which we did have to go into in 2010 and 2008."
There have been a handful of deaths recently at triathlons and the sport's governing body in the U.S. is creating a task force to determine if anything can be done to prevent them. That decision by USA Triathlon comes in the wake of deaths at events in New York City, Washington, D.C., and Louisville, Ky.
Even so, incidents like this remain rare.
At marathons, Chiampas said they usually occur near the finish line or within the last half mile or mile.
"There's some thought that during the competition, if there's some type of adrenalin surge, that potentially may be one of the issues that puts them in this type of situation," Chiampas said. "Those are some of the things that we look at."
Associated Press writer Don Babwin in Chicago contributed to this report.