On Sunday, an accident that occurred during the Ironman triathlon in Hamburg, Germany, claimed the life of a 70-year-old man. Early in the second leg of the bike race, a motorcycle with a driver and a pillion rider operating a camera collided with a contestant on a bicycle, according to Hamburg police. The incident was also shown live on television.
The motorcyclist, age 70, passed away at the scene of the collision. The 26-year-old triathlete was rushed to the hospital after suffering significant injuries. Additionally, authorities reported that the camera operator, a 50-year-old man, had been rushed to the hospital because he was experiencing shock.
After the early morning accident, which happened at 8:40 a.m. local time (0640 UTC/GMT), the race went on as planned; however, public broadcaster ARD decided to halt its live coverage of the event as a show of respect.
The cordoning off of the area of the course where the tragedy happened was “unavoidable,” according to the police. Immediately after, competitors passing through the area were compelled to dismount from their bikes and push them past the incident along the side of the road. Soon later, a detour to the course was established in its place.
The devastated witnesses and first responders were given counseling and other support by a German Red Cross team that took over.
What is an Ironman triathlon event?
Long-distance Ironman Triathlon competitions are thought to be the toughest physical endurance test in professional sports.
They consist of three legs: a 2.4-mile (3.86-kilometer) swim, always in current-filled, open water; a 112-mile bike ride; and a marathon-distance run. Even the fittest racers typically need eight hours or more to complete a course, while there are some that are quicker due to fewer difficult hills or calmer swimming conditions.
Because of this, the races typically begin very early in the morning; the race in Hamburg on Sunday did so at 6 a.m.
Police still seeking reasons for the crash
Due to the course’s looping design, the incident occurred on a section of road where riders were moving in both directions at the same time. In these circumstances, cyclists typically stick to one side of the road individually, with the support motorcycles using the middle of the route.
Curt Wenzel, a spokesman for the police, said on Sunday that investigators were still attempting to determine what caused the collision. He pointed out that the crash occurred on a straight stretch of road that, despite being narrow, should have been relatively “unspectacular” in comparison to some other locations along the route.
Competitors and observers have, however, pointed out how crowded conditions were in areas with two-way traffic.
Leading German competitor Jan Frodeno, who finished fourth in the race, was critical after crossing the finish line.
“It was incredibly narrow, a complete farce. I was right next to it and saw the bike shatter into what felt like a thousand pieces,” Frodeno said. “I know that such things must always be covered by the media, but athletes’ safety should come first.”
Frodeno said he only learned on reaching the finish that the crash had been fatal.
Sebastian Kienle, a former Ironman world champion and co-commentator on ARD television, had also lamented that “there are far too many motorbikes” among the racers just before the accident.
Despite the mishap, the race went on. The men’s competition was won by France’s Denis Chevrot, the defending champion, ahead of Pieter Heemeryck of Belgium and Kristian Högenhaus of Denmark.
However, the podium festivities and the scheduled after-party for the evening were both canceled.