(CBS/AP) FORT LEE, N.J. - An athlete competing in the Ironman U.S. Championship in New York City and New Jersey died Saturday after having a medical problem during the swimming portion of the grueling triathlon, race officials said.
The competitor "experienced distress" during a 2.4-mile swim in the Hudson River at the start of the all-day competition, a publicist for the race organizers said. The course ran along the New Jersey shoreline, just north of the George Washington Bridge.
The swimmer was pulled out of the water and taken to a hospital in nearby Englewood Cliffs, N.J., but did not survive.
The cause of death is unknown and an autopsy is planned, CBS New York reports. New York City police said the contestant was a 43-year-old man. His name has not yet been released.
The Ironman U.S. Championship released the following statement:
We are deeply saddened to confirm the death of an athlete at today's Aquadraat Sports IRONMAN U.S. Championship. The athlete experienced distress during the swim portion of the race, received immediate on-site medical attention and was transported to a nearby hospital. The cause of death is unknown as we await autopsy results. On behalf of all of us in the triathlon community, we mourn his death and send our condolences to his family and loved ones.
Contestants in the race followed their swim in the Hudson with a 112-mile bicycle ride through the suburbs, and then a 26.2-mile marathon that finished at Manhattan's Riverside Park.
Jordan Rapp, a winner of multiple Ironman titles, won the race in an unofficial time of 8 hours, 11 minutes and 18 seconds.
Earlier in the week, officials had warned of partially treated sewage that was being discharged into the Hudson River while a broken pipe was fixed upriver in suburban Westchester County. Eventually, the discharge was stanched, and tests were done to determine the race course was safe for swimming, organizers said.
Deaths in triathlon competitions have happened with regularity in recent years, almost always during the swim, and the Hudson River has been particularly dangerous.
Two people died during the swim portion of the Nautica New York City Triathlon last summer. A male competitor also died during the New York City Triathlon in 2008.
After a spate of five deaths around the country in two months last summer, a governing body for the sport, USA Triathlon, created a task force to examine the fatalities.
The swim always comes at the beginning of the triathlon, when athletes are most fresh, but the field is often intensely crowded at that stage of the race. Competitors often report feeling panicked as they bump and thrash for space in sometimes frigid water.
The Ironman U.S. Championship also includes a more than 140-mile bike ride and a marathon run in addition to the Hudson River swim. Approximately 2,500 triathletes participated in the event, according to CBS New York.