A 24-year-old man collapsed and died during the International Oasis Rock ‘N’ Roll Montreal Marathon on Sunday.
Patrick Neely, who was competing in the half marathon, collapsed near St-Hubert and Cherrier Sts., just before the 19-kilometre mark of the 21-kilometre race.
A medical resident attempted to resuscitate him but she was unsuccessful. The Quebec coroner’s office confirmed the death on Monday.
The paramedic agency serving the Montreal area says it responded rapidly to a call for a man in cardiorespiratory arrest. Urgences Santé spokesperson Véronique Tremblay said the call came in at 9:55 a.m., and paramedics were treating Neely seven minutes later. A statement from the marathon also said that based on Neely’s timing and pacing data, and eyewitness accounts, medical personnel arrived on scene within about eight minutes of the 911 call.
A spokeswoman for the provincial coroner said the office will investigate the circumstances surrounding the death.
The marathon started almost an hour late, at 8 a.m. Sunday. The delay was caused by a shortage of staff and volunteers to secure the road race’s course, organizers said.
A medical resident told La Presse that she tried to resuscitate the man, but he had no pulse. Neely reportedly suffered from a pre-existing heart condition. Some witnesses said life-saving equipment such as defibrillators were not readily available.
“The safety of the course was not assured at the scheduled time of departure,” organizers said in a Facebook post. “The organization redeployed teams on the courses to ensure safety throughout the course.”
It said any reports linking the delay to the incident “are inaccurate” and appropriate medical resources were in place, “including more than 50 (automated external defibrillators) and over 80 health professionals throughout the course as well as eight ambulances dedicated to the event.”
Nearly 18,000 participants were enrolled in the five events of the Montreal Rock ’n’ Roll Oasis Marathon. On Saturday, 5,637 people participated in family-friendly events, including five-, 10- and one-kilometre charity races.
The day after a 24-year-old man collapsed and died during the Montreal Marathon on Sunday, there are questions about whether more could have been done to save him.
Patrick Neely, 24, was competing in the 21.1-kilometre half-marathon when he collapsed near the corner of Cherrier and St-Hubert streets at around 10 a.m.
Urgences-Santé spokesperson Valérie Tremblay said when first responders arrived, bystanders were performing CPR on the man.
Montreal resident Josée Gagnon was among the first to offer assistance to Neely. Early for a Sunday morning appointment, she decided to watch the marathon from the sidelines.
"Any reports linking the races delayed start to this incident are inaccurate," race organizers said in a statement.
Gagnon's attention was drawn to a young woman holding a sign, cheering on the participants. Then her eyes fell on Neely.
Marathon officials said their medical support was well coordinated with more than 50 defibrillators available.
"He sort of smiled," said Gagnon. He appeared to be struggling but looked determined to finish, she said.
She ran to the man's side, along with two or three other women. She said it was another 20 to 25 minutes before an ambulance arrived.
It took so long that Gagnon thought she had lost all concept of time in the heat of the moment. But after reviewing her phone records, she concluded that "it was unacceptably long."
She cooled Neely with water while others continued efforts to resuscitate him. She talked to him, reassuring him, screaming, "Stay with us!"
Medical professionals participating in the race stopped and tried to help, but without a defibrillator on hand, there was little that could be done beyond chest compressions.
She called 911 to ask what was taking so long, and the operator told her not to panic. But the operator also told her they had not yet received any calls about the incident.
Speaking to CBC News on Monday, Gagnon teared up as she expressed her own feelings of watching Neely succumb to cardiac arrest.
"It's not normal what happened," she said. "His face haunts me. I think of his mother."
Urgences-Santé's Tremblay said her service was notified of the collapsed runner at 9:55 a.m. First responders, including ambulance workers, arrived eight minutes later, at 10:03 a.m.
Tremblay said Urgences-Santé had been collaborating with organizers to make sure ambulances could respond quickly to all emergencies.
Race organizers post first-aid teams along the route, she said, and ambulances are stationed nearby to assist when notified. She was unable to say who called 911.
Other than the usual traffic, she said, there were no major delays in getting an ambulance, already on standby, to the scene Sunday morning.
"We know how this event works, so we are prepared for those kinds of things," she told CBC Montreal's Daybreak on Monday.
Rock 'n' Roll Montreal Marathon race director Dominique Piché told CBC News Monday morning he would not provide more information until organizers had more details of what happened. He said his focus was on the athlete's family and friends, extending his condolences to them.
The marathon organization issued a brief statement later in the day, confirming the runner's death early Monday morning at the Centre hospitalier de l'Université de Montréal. It also confirmed that it took medical personnel with advanced lifesaving equipment about eight minutes to arrive on the scene after the 911 call came in.
"Staffing, planning, and preparation related to medical support for the event [have] been ongoing for nearly a year, and all resources were appropriately in place on race day, including more than 50 AEDs [automated external defibrillators] and over 80 health professionals throughout the course, as well as eight ambulances dedicated to the event," the statement said.
"We would like to thank the fast response of the Good Samaritan for their efforts, as well as event medical personnel who worked diligently to treat the race participant."
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