UPDATE: Although seas were choppy the day of the Jekyll Island Turtle Crawl Triathlon, event organizers believe Chris Petty, 44, of Smyrna died from cardiac arrest, not drowning.
“The water conditions were, I would say, I wasn’t on site, but from hearing from the event organizer, they were probably rougher than what we were hoping for,” said Eric Garvey, Jekyll Island’s media and public relations representative. “But for an open water swim you do deal with the choppiness of the ocean.”
Garvey said lifeguards who provided medical assistance after rescuing Petty said his symptoms indicated a heart attack. The Glynn County Coroner performed an autopsy on Petty Monday, but the results were not available at this posting.
Garvey said Petty registered in the triathlon as a novice and noted that it’s not uncommon for competitors to become overwhelmed in open ocean swimming events. Lifeguards reported helping four to six other competitors out of the water at Saturday’s event, though these swimmers did not require medical assistance.
“(Competitors) might train in a swimming pool and then they come to the ocean and they either become fatigued or unnerved,” he said. “A whole variable of things, so it’s not uncommon to have a few swimmers need assistance out of the water. So we don’t feel like it was an extra-ordinary condition on the sea during the swim.”
Garvey noted that the Jekyll Island Turtle Crawl Triathlon is sanctioned the by the USA Triathlon and that the competition is coordinated by the largest triathlon organizer in the country. He said the organizers would look into the event’s safety procedures to determine if anything could have been done differently Saturday.
“We’re very saddened by it,” he said. “The whole Jekyll Island community is very somber. We did offer a moment of silence at subsequent activities. Our heartfelt sympathies do go out to friends and family of Mr. Petty. It is a sad occurrence.”
ORIGINAL STORY: Chris Petty, 44, of Smyrna, died after he apparently suffered cardiac arrest while competing in the Jekyll Island Turtle Crawl Triathalon Saturday, reported the Atlanta Journal Constitution.
Petty was completing the swimming portion of the event Saturday when he began to arrest and was rescued by lifeguards. He was taken to an area hospital where he was pronounced dead. Smyrna-Vinings Patch is awaiting more details from the coroner.