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:
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, 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:
"Fran Crippen was the toughest national team swimmer I have ever seen. There was no quit in him. He had the toughest coaches in the names of Shoulberg, Rose and Bernardino coach him. His mind would never give up, even when his body wanted to. This is the most tragic event in the history of swimming."
"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."