An Ironman participant who saw the body of one of two people who died during yesterday’s race in Youghal said organisers made a 'serious mistake' allowing it to go ahead.
Ironman Ireland confirmed both men died after they got into trouble during the swimming section of the event.
One man was in his 60s, another in his 40s; both men were removed from the water by emergency services.
Speaking to Lunchtime Live, participant Keith described himself as a “very strong swimmer” but even he found the size of the waves yesterday intimidating.
“To be honest, I shouldn’t have got into the water and I’m sorry I did,” he said.
“I put my family through torture - my children and my wife were standing on the water’s edge at the time.
“I knew going out that I shouldn’t be doing it.”
'They should have just called it'
Keith trained for the event for two years and described participating in it as a “lifetime achievement” and it was this that made him decide to go ahead with the event.
“As I was standing on the shore, I was going, ‘I know I shouldn’t get in - but my friend beside me, he’s getting in, he’ll get the medal, I won’t get the medal,’” he said.
“I jumped in and went for it… When we were coming up the slip, the man lay dead on the pier.
“Going out on the bike course, I had that in my head the whole time.
“I should have just parked up the bike and just said, ‘I’m not doing this.’
“I think they should have just called the race at the time.”
Keith said Ironman made a “serious mistake” allowing the swimming portion of the event to go ahead and feels the race should have been shortened.
“Just do the cycle and the run,” he said.
“Their [Ironman’s] responsibility, to me, is the safety and welfare of the athletes on the courses.
“That’s what their primary function should be.”
In a statement on Monday evening, event organisers Ironman said athlete safety is its “utmost priority” in all events.
It said weather conditions were monitored carefully and Ironman 70.3 Triathlon was rescheduled to take place on Sunday to “provide a safer race for athletes”.
"Officials and the on-swim safety team carried out all standard safety protocol checks that are completed at every race and determined water conditions were safe for the swim to take place,2 it said.
It noted that the swim was shortened, “as a further precaution to ensure that the significant water safety assets - such as kayaks, lifeguards and medical boats - could be concentrated over a smaller area, while also allowing swimmers the ability to swim with the help of a more favourable current and incoming tide after the first 100 meters”.
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Main image: A split of Ironman swimmers.