Runner died at Chicago Marathon

An autopsy on a North Carolina firefigher who died during the Chicago Marathon was inconclusive, authorities said today.

The Cook County medical examiner’s office said it is awaiting results of toxicological tests to help determine what caused the death of 35-year-old William Caviness.

Caviness was running the marathon to raise money to help burn victims. Even after his death, he continues to raise thousands of dollars. He collapsed at about 10:30 a.m. Sunday on the Near South Side, about 500 yards from the finish line.

Medical personnel were able to get his heart beating again but he died 1 hour, 45 minutes after he was attended to at the race, according to race medical director Dr. George Chiampas said. Five to six emergency medicine doctors, in addition to EMS personnel, were stationed nearby, and there was “an immediate response, within seconds.”

It was the second time in five years that a runner died at Chicago’s marquee race.

Chad Schieber, a 35-year-old Michigan police officer and father of three, died during the 2007 marathon, and hundreds of participants collapsed or vomited in scorching, near-90 degree heat. An autopsy blamed his death on a heart condition called mitral valve prolapse, and coroners said tests showed no evidence he was dehydrated.

After Schieber’s death, organizers improved communication between various agencies and the runners. They also added more water distribution points and medical aid stations.

The race-time temperature was 64 and reached the high 70s on Sunday afternoon, the fourth time in five years the weather was unusually warm.

Even so, Chiampas said only 54 people were taken by ambulance to the hospital this year, compared to 100 in 2010 and 85 in 2008 under similar conditions.

There have been a handful of deaths recently at triathlons and the sport’s governing body in the U.S. is creating a task force to determine if anything can be done to prevent them. That decision by USA Triathlon comes in the wake of deaths at events in New York City, Washington, D.C., and Louisville, Ky.

Even so, incidents like this remain rare.

At marathons, Chiampas said they usually occur near the finish line or within the last half mile or mile.

“There’s some thought that during the competition, if there’s some type of adrenalin surge, that potentially may be one of the issues that puts them in this type of situation,” Chiampas said. “Those are some of the things that we look at.”



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