Passages: Fran Crippen, 26 - FINA, USA Swimming, USOC Release Statements - Updated -- October 24, 2010

Updated October 24 with cause of death

FUJAIRAH, United Arab Emirates, October 23. SHORTLY after the FINA Open Water 10K World Cup swim today in the UAE, United States swimmer Fran Crippen, 26, passed away after falling unconscious during the race. Initial medical tests on site have determined that Crippen suffered a fatal heart attack.

With the water in the mid-to-high 80s, the competitors all finished and noticed that Crippen had not crossed the finish line. Meet management brought in deep sea divers, who found Crippen dead under the water just before the final buoy nearly two hours later. Previous reporting stated that Crippen was found unconscious, and was taken to the local hospital before dying. More information from the scene has confirmed that he had already passed away during the race.

Crippen had shown signs of slowing down during the third lap of the five-lap race. When Crippen did not immediately finish, a fact noticed by teammate Alex Meyer who screamed for help, the competing swimmers rushed back into the water to help with the search.

Information provided to Swimming World demonstrates that the water was likely too hot for the event as several swimmers, including USA's Eva Fabian and Christine Jennings, were treated for heat exhaustion at the hospital after the race.

FINA does not have a maximum temperature allowed, but does have a minimum temperature for an open water swim to take place.

Additionally, according to information received by Swimming World, there was a single boat for the referee along with up to three jet skis with one assigned to the lead group. According to the same information, no lifeguards were on land or near the swimmers. The only other boats around the course contained media members and other spectators.

The last time Crippen was seen alive was when he passed the first feed station on the final lap, and was seen to be struggling. Upon completion of the race, according to our source, no one was keeping track of swimmers as they finished.

National Youth Team Head Coach Jack Roach is heading to the United Arab Emirates to serve as Crippen's honor transport to make sure he returns to the United States for burial and services to be announced.

This was the last open water swim of the year for Crippen, and he had planned to take a vacation to Italy.

Born in Philadelphia, Pa., Crippen was a member of the illustrious Crippen family who grew up at the Germantown Academy in Fort Washington. Crippen's top finish in the sport came at the 2009 World Championships when he finished third in the 10K swim in Rome. He also won a pair of Pan Pacific silver medals in the 10K at both the 2006 and 2010 editions. In the pool, he won two silver medals at the 2003 Pan American Games in the 400 and 1500 freestyle events. Overall, he has won six U.S. national titles with two in the 800 free, two in the 5K and two in the 10K.

After prepping at Germantown, Crippen swam for the University of Virginia and was an 11-time All-American and two-time Atlantic Coast Conference Swimmer of the Year. More recently, Crippen swam for the Mission Viejo Nadadores.

All three of his sisters have had their own success within the swimming community. Maddy was a 2000 Olympian who swam for Villanova, while Claire in an NCAA All-American for the University of Virginia. Teresa is an NCAA finalist who currently swims for the University of Florida.

Crippen's Facebook page has turned into a memorial today as friends post condolences and memories of how Crippen touched their lives.

Crippen has been a guest on The Morning Swim Show three times. Below are links to all three of his appearances:

Crippen's June 17, 2009 interview

Crippen's Aug. 31, 2009 interview

Crippen's June 19, 2010 interview

The following day, FINA canceled the final open water swim of the season - a 15K FINA Open Water Swimming Grand Prix event scheduled for Fujairah on Oct. 27.

FINA, USA Swimming and the USOC have released statements regarding the death:

With immense sadness, FINA mourns the loss of open water swimmer Fran Crippen (USA), during the last leg of the FINA 10km Marathon Swimming World Cup, held in Fujairah (UAE), on October 23, 2010.

Crippen, 26 years old, had been in evidence at the latest two editions of the FINA World Championships. In 2009, in Rome (ITA), he had been bronze medallist in the 10km event, while in 2010, at the FINA World Open Water Championships in Roberval (CAN), he was also third, this time in the 5km.

While the causes of this death remain under investigation, FINA and the entire aquatic community address, in this moment of grief, their deepest and sincere condolences to his Family, Friends and to US Aquatic Sports and USA Swimming family.

USA Swimming
USA Swimming, its employees, members, National Team athletes and coaches are deeply saddened today by the death of Fran Crippen. Fran was a champion swimmer but more importantly, a tremendous person, and he will be remembered for so many extraordinary qualities. We send our sincere condolences and deepest sympathies to the Crippen family, a family that is a treasured member of the USA Swimming family. We will continue to work with FINA, the meet host and others to determine how this tragedy occurred.

The USOC was extremely saddened to learn today of the death of U.S. swimmer Fran Crippen. We send our condolences and deepest sympathies to the Crippen family as well as to our entire swimming community. While details of this tragedy are still forthcoming, we shall keep this outstanding young athlete and his family in our thoughts and prayers.

Swimming World is continuing to look into this tragic death.

What they are saying:
"One of my favorite images in the sport was a picture from the 2000 Olympic Trials in Indianapolis. Maddy had just qualified for the Sydney Games in the 400 IM and Fran reached down from the deck and gave her a big hug. It was an amazing photo of a family bond. If you know swimming at all, you know about the Crippen family legacy. Being from Southeastern Pennsylvania, I've been fortunate to see them perform often. But their talents in the pool are not the most important thing. Every time I had the chance to talk to Fran for a story or after he competed, he had such a friendliness and upbeat way about him. God bless him and his family."
Swimming World senior writer John Lohn

"Anytime, no matter who it was big or small, when you hear someone passing away, it is truly a tragedy. Fran was an incredible athlete and incredible human being. I know he will definitely be missed by many. What he did for swimming will be remembered well. We truly lost a great human being today, there is no question about it. My thoughts and prayers are with his family. I'm just absolutely stunned."
Kicker Vencill

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October 23, 2010 I´m appaled!

Prayers to the family!

And all the blame to FINA and the way it handles open water swimming: if it´s not too cold, it´s too hot, and always too dangerous!
Submitted by: nadador
October 23, 2010 Prayers to the Crippen family.

I agree with nadador; the open water conditions may be very dangerous at times, that is why I try to stay away from open water swimming, the risk is great. I hope, atleast, that FINA and the swimming world learns a valuable lesson from Fran Crippen's passing, and maybe help improve the sport of swimming and make it safer for all.
Submitted by: iswim19
October 23, 2010 What a stunning and tragic loss. The Crippen family should know that they have the support of the entire swimming community in their time of grief.
Submitted by: fluidg
October 23, 2010 SwimmingWorld mag....please update us on this site as to where people can send donations, etc to the family as information becomes available. This family has done so much for our sport and the swimming world will rally around them. Thanks in advance for the info.
Submitted by: CAcoach
October 23, 2010 Will let you know when we have service information.
Submitted by: Jason Marsteller
October 23, 2010 wow ... what a shame...
Submitted by: philipmj24
October 23, 2010 Fran was such a great guy. The swimming world has the Crippen family in our thoughts and prayers. Please do let us know where to send condolences and donations.
Submitted by: JimSwim
October 23, 2010 Water temp in the mid to high 80's??? With the sun beating down? That is completely INSANE!! The water in a pool where I occasionally trained as a last resort, or for quick workout, is kept at 84 year-round, due to the large population of senior citizens who use it mainly for mild recreation and prefer the water hot. After about 20 minutes of swimming at a mediocre pace, I always had to stop and warm down due to starting to feel overheated and exhausted. 10K in that temp, at an elite pace, is unthinkable! From a purely legal standpoint, I suppose Crippen probably knew the water temp and signed off, but what about the judgement of coaches, officials, and what about official open water regulations or guidelines--(please tell me they have them for water temps??) I agree with lswim19 that open water swimming is relatively dangerous, but this appears to be a tragedy that was preventable.

My heart goes out to the great Crippen family, friends, competitors who tried to help, and the whole swimming community, for the loss of a great swimmer and human being. Best wishes for speedy recovery for Fabian, Jennings, and the others treated for heat exhaustion. Like lswim19 I hope that this will prompt necessary changes to prevent further tragedies and illnesses.
Submitted by: liquidassets
October 23, 2010 Now I'm also hearing that there was only one escort boat; can that possibly be true?
Submitted by: liquidassets
October 23, 2010 I would first of all say; our thoughts and prayers are with the Crippen family. I did not have the pleasure of knowing Fran, but my daughter trained with Teresa with UF/Gator Swim Club and now she swims for UVA and Claire is her big sister on the team. We just meet Peter and Pat on move in day in August and had a wonderful dinner with Claire, Peter and Pat. I do not know of a family that has been more of an ambassador to the sport than the Crippen family. In the case of swim parents/athletes families "water is just as thick as blood". We are here for you in your time of need. If SwimmingWorld News and/or USA swimming can keep us informed many of us would deeply appreciate it.
As to FINA; how can something like this occur?? Where were the officials on the water?? How do they lose sight of one of the competitors? In open waters swimming safety is pushed to the nth degree and everyone is accounted for during all aspects of the race here in the states. Where were the coaches/trainers at the finish?? They should have had an idea where he was at in terms of placement in the water and high 80s water temp, officials should have had some sort of sense that the water was too hot to swim in. this is inexcusable!! I know when I train at UF outdoor pool and when the water hits 84 it's too hot to have a serious workout let alone a hard one or race. Finger pointing will not bring him back, but maybe FINA will wake up and seriously look at their rules and regulations and bring some accountability to their organization. It is a shame that someone had to pay with his life to open the eyes of the organization to take a look into safety rules. The world is a sadder place with his passing and heaven has become a bit brighter. God speed Fran!! We will miss you, your Commonwealth Gator Families.

Submitted by: UVAswimdad
October 23, 2010 The problem was not the water temp. The problem was where was someone when Fran got in trouble. Fran did Ft. Myers 3Xs with the water temp higher. Races are done in all conditions, and the best prepare , as did Fran. Something happened,and when it did, someone should have recognized it.
FRan was, and is, a warrior, and he swam until he couldnt. Someone should have see it coming. As race director of the USA Nationals 6Xs, if the event is still held in Ft. Myers in June, EVERY swimmer will have an escort
Submitted by: hammer12
October 23, 2010 Thanks hammer12: Well counting Fran Crippen there were at least 4 swimmers reported who failed to complete the Dubai race due to medical complications from the hot water, 3 of them American. Putting aside the escort/observation factor for a minute, which I agree with you about, is this pattern of drop outs due to medical complications common in the Ft. Myers Natls competition where you say the water temp is even higher?

I read on Swimnews that the limit for pool swim meets is 28C and Fran died in 30C water (86F), though they didn't specify the limits for open water, do you know what it is?
Submitted by: liquidassets
October 23, 2010 The minimum limit, which is more of a recommendation, is 16°C (60.8°F). My understanding, which is still growing as I do more research into this story, there is no maximum limit or even recommendation.
Submitted by: Jason Marsteller
October 23, 2010 How heartbreaking for his family and friends. My condolences.

That water temperature is way too hot. They should have a limit. As a former competitive swimmer I agree with all the previous comments.
Submitted by: mario2007
October 23, 2010 Wow that's backwards that there isn't a maximum limit for open water given the max recommended for pool 28C (82F), especially since the temp can't be controlled in open water like it can be in the pool, and the distances are much longer.
Submitted by: liquidassets
October 23, 2010 As my facebook friend, he will be missed. Remember yesterday saw he wrote about going to a trip after finishing that last meet this year. Today I was really shocked to find out the story... How sad it is. May you rest in peace, Fran!
Submitted by: tim
October 23, 2010 As my facebook friend, he will be missed. Remember yesterday saw he wrote about going to a trip after finishing that last meet this year. Today I was really shocked to find out the story... How sad it is. May you rest in peace, Fran!
Submitted by: tim
October 23, 2010 RIP Fran! You will be missed.
Submitted by: tim
October 23, 2010 Fran was an amazing man. He coached my daughter at the Mission Viejo Nadadores. I am so saddened by the loss of such a wonderful man. He was a passionate competitor and humble person. Fran always made time for the kids he coached and for anyone who approached him. He help out with the Masters program and inspired all who came in contact with him. My heart felt prayers are with all his family and friends. The swimming world lost a true champion of the sport but more so we lost a great man.
Submitted by: Nad Master Swimmer
October 23, 2010 Swim your next workout for Fran. Feel the water for Fran. Pull hard, kick hard for Fran. Reach deep and compete hard in memory of Fran. Leave it all in the water...for Fran.
Submitted by: Nad Master Swimmer
October 23, 2010 When I first read the topic, I thought I misread the name because I didn't believe that Fran would passaway so soon at such a young age. I don't know Fran but I did follow his swim results and always admired his competitiveness.

My deepest condolences to the Crippen family. R.I.P. Fran.
Submitted by: BlueOcean
October 23, 2010 A tragic loss that should never have happened. Each pack of swimmers should have their own escort. Lifeguards in kayaks should be all over the course watching the competitors and not just acting as spectators. Each athlete should have on a GPS tracking device. The athletes could be tracked on a computer monitor. If there is no forward motion on the GPS then an alert would immediatly go out to the lifeguards in the water. They would be able to track each individual athlete and know their precise location. It is past time to bring some safety precautions to this sport. Thoughts and prayers to the Crippen family.
Submitted by: INswimmom
October 24, 2010 My sympathies to the family. This is a horrific tragedy. There should have been more trained observers/lifeguards/watchers.

There should be an upper limit temperature – just as there is a lower limit temperature. A friend, Michael Veath, passed away during the swim of a triathlon in 2003 from hypothermia. In this case they allowed wetsuits in temperatures up 78 degrees (USAT) and the temperature was at least 78 – this is way too warm for wetsuits.

I can certainly see upper limits for all open water swims such as 82 degrees (72 for wetsuits in USAT). Also, I would like to see more requirements for trained observers/lifeguards/watchers such as one per 5-10 athletes.

Submitted by: swmwzrd
October 24, 2010 Noone has mentioned the resposibility that the Dubai Organizing should have taken. They should be held accountable. Think, the short course World Championships will be held ther.
Submitted by:
October 24, 2010 We are closing down this comment thread, since the story is largely about Fran Crippen's life and death.

We will be posting a follow-up story in the coming days as we hear about the changes spurred by his death, where we believe continued discussion will make much more sense. We will also be keeping a close eye on athlete safety provision discussions.

Thank you for understanding.
Submitted by: Jason Marsteller
Reaction Time responses do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions
of Swimming World Magazine or

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