Two Men Die While Competing in an Ironman Traithlon

Zachary Stieber
By Zachary Stieber
June 12, 2019US News
Two Men Die While Competing in an Ironman Traithlon
Todd Mahoney, 38, an engineer with the Madison Fire Department, passed away on June 11, 2019, two days after being rescued from the water during an Ironman in Wisconsin. (Madison Fire Department)

Two men died while competing in an Ironman triathlon in Wisconsin, authorities said.

The competition was held on June 9.

Todd Mahoney, 38, an engineer with the Madison Fire Department, passed away on June 11, the department said.

Mahoney was swimming in Lake Monona during the triathlon when he was rescued just before 9 a.m. and rushed to SSM St. Mary’s Hospital. He was in critical condition for about 48 hours before dying.

It is with heavy hearts we announce the passing of our dear friend and brother Todd Mahoney, who was competing in the…

Posted by City of Madison Fire Department on Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Mahoney, who had been with the department for nine years, is survived by his wife and three young sons.

The Dane County Medical Examiner’s Office is investigating the cause of Mahoney’s death.

Officials said that the other man who died during the Ironman triathlon was identified as Michael McCulloch. He was also pulled from Lake Monona during the event.

The Dane County Medical Examiner’s Office said a forensic autopsy showed that the cause of death “was consistent with an accidental drowning due in part to a medical event,” according to the Wisconsin State Journal. Additional testing was being done.

According to McCulloch’s obituary, he “passed away unexpectedly while competing in the Ironman 70.3 Triathlon.”

It said that he worked for the last 22 years as the director of meat, deli, and bakery at Certco Inc. He was also survived by his wife and daughter.

“Mike enjoyed participating in triathlons, biking, ballroom dancing, hiking, traveling, reading, and was an avid Wisconsin sports fan,” the obituary said. “He touched the lives of so many through his family, friends, work, and hobbies. His one-liners would bring raucous laughter to a group, while his empathy and compassion one-on-one was genuine and comforting. Mike was a wonderful husband, father, and friend. He will be dearly missed.”

The department said that the two deaths do not appear to be related.

Ironman said in a statement: “The well-being of our competitors is paramount and we are grateful for the effort and quick support of medical personnel.”

After Mahoney passed away, the organization added: “We are profoundly saddened to learn that the race participant who has been receiving treatment at a nearby hospital since Sunday’s IRONMAN 70.3 Wisconsin has passed away.”

“The athlete required medical attention during the swim portion of this past weekend’s race and was transported to a nearby hospital for ongoing treatment,” it added.

“We are devastated for the families and their loss and will continue to offer our support. We are thankful for the quick action taken by medical personnel on race day and remain committed to working with the local authorities in providing the safest environment possible for our athletes. No further comment will be offered at this time out of respect for the family’s privacy.”

Athletes Helped

Fellow competitors helped rescue the two men from the water.

“I think there were at least a couple that swam back and helped out with this gentleman,” Jeffrey Perkins, who was at the lake watching his son race, told WKOW. “Those are the people I want watching over me, that’s exactly what I thought.”

He noted that the triathlon is for people in good shape.

“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.

According to a study published in the “Annals of Internal Medicine” in 2017, “deaths and cardiac arrests during the triathlon are not rare; most have occurred in middle-aged and older men.”

“Most sudden deaths in triathletes happened during the swim segment, and clinically silent cardiovascular disease was present in an unexpected proportion of decedents,” researchers wrote.

Athlete Brad Lewitzke said he feels safe during Ironman competitions.

“You could get hit standing off the curb by a car or something like that,” he told Fox 47. “(It’s) one of those risks that we all accept.”

John Gagliardi, who raced in the event, added: “For the most part these races are very well run. They’re very conscious about safety.”

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