For the first time in its 33-year history, a participant in the world renowned "Escape from Alcatraz" died during the event.
The death of Ross Ehlinger, 46, on Sunday during the swim portion of the event — held in the frigid San Francisco Bay amid 6-foot swells and a powerful outgoing tide — raised questions about what effect the tough conditions had. This year's event was held Sunday rather than in June to accommodate the America's Cup sailing race.
The answer appears to be that the father of three from Austin, Texas, may have had an underlying health problem exposed in an especially grueling triathlon.
The San Francisco medical examiner is still investigating the cause of death.
But race organizers and a heart surgeon that participated in the race speculated that the attorney succumbed to an underlying health problem rather than being a victim exclusively of the rough conditions or drowning. Ehlinger was wearing a wetsuit.
"I bet the man had a health problem," said Dr. Lawrence Creswell, a University of Mississippi researcher who has participated in several "Escape" triathlons. "I would bet that there's a heart problem and not a drowning problem."
Creswell said he doesn't know whether the conditions played any role in the death.
He was handling the wrongful death suit for my daughter.
Man, this guy was so nice and understanding. I have to find a new lawyer, but first get over the shock of this. He was a great guy.
Rest in peace, Ross.