Tuesday, July 29, 2008

NJ Tri Death

Someone died during the swim on Sunday and I thought it deserved it's own post rather than being lumped in with my race report.

Okay first of all Holy cow! How did this happen? There were a ton of kayakers on the course, and it was an easy, simple swim course.

Things that are really disconcerting:
This poor guy was a newbie, as were a LOT of people at this race. Kind of scary, this could have been one of ours.

They were looking for the body while we were all there for the awards ceremony and no one knew. Great job by the Race Directors.

Condolences go out to the family, that must have been horrifying to find the body that way.

I'll post more information as it is released.

Article 1:


Triathlete disappears in lake
Rescuers unable to find body of W. Windsor man

Monday, July 28, 2008

A township man who was participating in the New Jersey State Triathlon at Mercer County Park yesterday is missing and presumed drowned after failing to finish a swim of Mercer Lake. Fire, emergency medical services and county boats searched the lake yesterday afternoon but could not find a body. Police have said the man was 52 years old but are withholding his name pending notification of his family. The man was reported missing by his fiancée just before 11:30 a.m., when she became concerned that she could not find him. Police said the man and the fiancée had talked around 7 a.m., when he called her to say he was at the park and getting ready for the race. She then left for the park to cheer him on. Police said the man, along with about 1,100 fellow racers, was participating in the sprint course, which involved a 0.31-mile swim, followed by an 11-mile bike ride and finally by a 3.1-mile run. More than 1,300 others raced the longer course. About 10,000 spectators were on hand. The 1,100 racers on the shorter course entered the lake in 10 separate groups to prevent overcrowding. The missing man was wearing an athletic tracking device issued by race operators and designed to monitor the time he entered and left the lake. The tracker noted he went into the water at 7:53 a.m. but did not have a time for his departure. The device could not be used to find his exact location. "That was my first question," West Windsor Police Chief Joe Pica said. "Apparently, it's not that easy." According to Pica, the tracker operates much like the security system in a store, where passage between two monitors activates it. Lt. Carl Walsh said it was possible, but not probable, that the man could have slipped out of the lake without being seen or reactivating his tracker. The course, following a diagonal trail from a sandy beach, then across the breadth of the lake to an exit at the marina, was monitored by 25 lifeguards stationed in the water in kayaks. Two EMS boats and two county park boats also policed the activities. Those same county boats were called back into action later in the day as the search for the man began. Police said the fiancée first approached a race official, who in turn notified police. The man's bike, cell phone, shoes, and other effects were found in the bike transition area set up in the marina's parking lot. Emergency personnel were contacted, both from West Windsor and from Trenton, where divers from the water rescue unit were sent to the scene. They began a search of the lake that was hampered by severe weather conditions, with operations suspended for an hour during a violent thunderstorm that began around 2 p.m. That weather, police said, interfered even after the lightning and thunder had passed. The water was relatively rough, and silt had been churned up from the bottom making it more difficult for rescue personnel to see. Mercer County spokeswoman Julie Willmot, who was monitoring the teams' progress from shore, said visibility in the water was down to 2 feet. The lake's deepest point is only about 15 feet down, Willmot said. The five boats on the lake were using a combination of technology, muscle power and human senses in the attempt to find the missing man. Basic sonar equipment was used to scan the lakebed, and several emergency workers wielded long poles used to feel around for anything underwater. All eyes on the boats were gazing at the silvery surface of the lake, which was peppered by raindrops, as a small one-man craft from West Windsor EMS slowly cruised along the shoreline. The difficult conditions, officials said, contributed to the search being called off as of 5 p.m. The boats returned to their staging area at the boathouse across the lake. Operations are scheduled to resume at 8 a.m. today, with police saying a more advanced sonar system will be employed. West Windsor police, fire and EMS will be on the water, and Trenton's dive team will return as well. The lake will be closed, but the park will remain open. Pica said that if efforts to find the man's body are unsuccessful today, other agencies, including the State Police, will be contacted for additional assistance. Willmot said Mercer Executive Brian Hughes has spent the evening on the phone with State Police Superintendent Col. Rick Fuentes and Mercer Sheriff Kevin Larkin attempting to garner state assistance. Willmot said Hughes, who was on hand yesterday morning to kick off the race, has faith in West Windsor authorities but wants all resources to be at the ready. Yesterday's race was operated by the county in conjunction with CGI Racing, which also operates the Northeast Maryland Triathlon, Philadelphia Women's Triathlon and Black Bear Triathlon in the Pocono Mountains. A CGI representative at the scene declined comment. Police said the triathlon, now in its third year, was fully approved by authorities. "It's very well-planned out and extremely well-organized," Walsh said. "Everyone who needs to be notified of the event was notified."
©2008 Times of Trenton
© 2008 NJ.com All Rights Reserved.

Article 2:

Family finds missing triathlete
By: Andria Y. Carter , Online Editor

Triathlete John Hobgood of West Windsor was recorded as going into Mercer Lake for the one-third-mile swim, but never recorded having emerged from the 85-degree water.

The Mercer County Medical Examiner is conducting an autopsy on a missing triathlete John Hobgood whose body was discovered about 1 a.m. today by family members.The Hobgood family was conducting a late night vigil at Mercer Lake when the body was discovered.The 52-year-old township man went missing on Sunday during the 500 meter swim sprint event of the New Jersey State Triathlon. The amateur sporting event had about 410 people in the water when Mr. Hobgood went missing, said Lt. Pat McCormick with the West Windsor Police Department.AdvertisementMcCormick said extreme precautions had been taken for the event with 24 lifeguards station on the lake in kayaks and four patrol boats with two EMS personnel."A lot of precautions were in place to make sure the triathletes were okay," McCormick said.Hobgood's finacee notified event officials about 11:30 a.m. that he failed to emerge from the swim event. He had been registered to also participate in the 5k run and 11 mile bike ride. Officials suspended the search for Hobgood's body when weather and darkness. The search was to resume this today about 8 a.m. The initial search turned from rescue to recovery when emergency personnel determined that Hobgood had not gotten out of the water when they found his bicycle in take for the next event and his parked car.Family members extremely upset that Mr. Hobgood had not been found decided to hold a vigil for the missing triathlete and noticed something that appeared to be a body in the water, McCormick said.The family members called township police right away and upon arrival determined it was a body and had it removed and taken to the coroner's office, McCormick added.Results of Hobgood's autopsy should be known within a couple days, he said.John Hobgood was a lifelong New Jersey resident who worked for National City Mortgage and helped customers with loans in Mercer and Somerset counties.


Lakeside vigil ends in sadness
Friends recover the body of drowned triathlete
Page 3 of 1
WEST WINDSOR -- The tragic moment when novice triathlete John W. Hobgood drowned beneath Lake Mercer Sunday morning slipped unnoticed by the thousands of people who had gathered at Mercer County Park for the New Jersey State Triathlon.
When Hobgood's body finally resurfaced on the lake in the still of night more than 15 hours later, almost no one was around.
The crowds were long gone, the park closed until daybreak yesterday. And the search of the lake for the missing 52-year-old from Princeton Junction had been suspended Sunday afternoon until the following morning.
But authorities let two of Hobgood's close friends -- Charles Voigt and Colleen Dunne -- keep a lonely lakeside vigil for him into the wee hours, just in case.
"We just didn't want him to be alone," said Dunne, who lives in Princeton Borough.
Carol Stasko, Hobgood's fiancee, wanted desperately to keep vigil at the lake, too, but the couple's friends thought she would be better off trying to rest at home while waiting for the official search to resume in the morning.
So for almost three hours, Dunne and Voigt waited by the water's edge near Voigt's pickup truck, scanning the lake.
At times they prayed or spoke to Hobgood as though he were there to hear. They reported on the outcome of Sunday's baseball game between his beloved Yankees and the rival Red Sox.
Voigt at one point turned the truck's lights onto the water -- "not really to search, but just be cause we were there by ourselves," he said.
"We were all hoping for the best turnout ..." Voigt said, letting the sentence trail off unfinished. Then, a little before 1 a.m. yesterday, Voigt and Dunne spotted the body floating near the surface.
The red swimmer skullcap Hob good had been wearing was still on his head -- and the first thing to catch his friends' attention, said Voigt, who lives in Montgomery.
They said they immediately called 911 for West Windsor police.
Officers responded to the lake and police summoned the county Medical Examiner's Office. Person nel from the Medical Examiner's Office recovered Hobgood's body from the water at about 1:30 a.m., police said.
Preliminary autopsy results show the cause of death as accidental drowning, said Mercer County spokeswoman Julie Willmot.
There was no indication of trauma that might have suggested Hobgood collided with another swimmer before he died, authorities said.
Hobgood's relatives, friends and his fiancee said they are at a loss to explain what went wrong for the former longtime Lawrence resident and avid long-distance biker.
Although Stasko said Hobgood had not attempted a triathlon before Sunday, he was athletic and had been training for Sunday's event for three or four months simply as a personal challenge.
"He was in great shape and went into it wholehearted," Stasko said yesterday as friends and family gathered with her inside the Princeton Junction home she and Hobgood shared.
The couple's wedding was scheduled for Sept. 13.
Hobgood, a divorced father of two adult children who worked as a mortgage banker, didn't have any known medical problems and wasn't taking any medication, Stasko and their friends said.
A photo snapped at the park less than an hour before Hobgood entered the lake to start the 0.31-mile swim leg at 7:53 a.m. shows him smiling and looking relaxed alongside a cheerful Stasko, who was there with a group of their friends to root him on.
His fiancee and friends said they didn't hang around by the starting point because they were hoping to spot him coming out of the water for the 11-mile biking phase.
But none of them became alarmed right away when they didn't see Hobgood because there were so many swimmers coming out that they at first figured they just didn't notice their man.
Stasko reported Hobgood missing just before 11:30 a.m. after she became concerned that he still did not show up, authorities said.
Hobgood was participating in the seventh wave of the shorter, sprint course of the triathlon. Each wave consists of about 100 to 150 racers, according to CGI Racing, the firm that co-organized Sunday's triathlon in conjunction with Mercer County.
About 1,100 people competed in the sprint course, which wraps up with a 3.1-mile run, according to race organizers.
Hobgood's daughter, Ashley Carunchio, who lives in Delaware and works as a trauma nurse there, said she didn't have any real worries about her dad attempting a tri athlon -- although she did jokingly tell him that he was crazy to try it.
Carunchio recalled how her dad came to encourage her in rowing competitions at Lake Mercer when she attended The Hun School of Princeton.
She said he was a generous man who was very supportive of her and her brother, Bryan Hobgood, who is studying chemical engineering at Columbia University.
"He could be stubborn and difficult at times, but he always showed how proud he was of us," Carunchio said, her composure faltering.
Mercer County Executive Brian M. Hughes called Hobgood's death tragic for the family and community.
"My heart goes out to the family," Hughes said.

Staff writer Alex Zdan contributed to this report.
©2008 Times of Trenton
© 2008 NJ.com All Rights Reserved.

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