British triathlete suffered irregular heartbeat before he drowned at East Coast Park

Mr Stephen Begley was taking part in the 1.5km swim leg of the Singapore International Triathlon on Sept 10, 2017, when he stopped moving in the sea.
Mr Stephen Begley was taking part in the 1.5km swim leg of the Singapore International Triathlon on Sept 10, 2017, when he stopped moving in the sea.PHOTO: THE BEGLEY FAMILY

SINGAPORE - A British triathlete who died after taking part in last year’s Singapore International Triathlon had suffered from cardiac arrhythmia (abnormal heart rhythm) before he drowned.

In an inquiry into the death of Mr Stephen Begley, 42, State Coroner Kamala Ponnampalam said the financial advisor had a pre-existing coronary artery disease.

She added that his medical condition had adversely affected his ability to remain safe in the waters off East Coast Park on Sept 10 last year. On Thursday (Sept 13), State Coroner Kamala ruled Mr Begley’s death a misadventure.

She said that in his autopsy, a senior consultant forensic pathologist found that there was a blockage of an artery supplying blood to his heart.

In her findings, she highlighted steps to mitigate the risks of death or injury from cardiac arrhythmic episodes or other exertion-related disorders during sporting events.

“The participant needs to ensure that he is in good physical health before he embarks on a triathlon or other similar endurance type events." 

“The Sports Safety Committee recommends a pre-participation health screening to reduce the incidence of sudden death. Good rest prior to the event and proper hydration before and during the triathlon are essential for safe participation,” said the State Coroner.

According to Mr Begley’s triathlon team mates – Mr Paul Gerard Molloy and Mr Robert Richard White – the Briton had never told them about about any medical problems, said State Coroner Kamala. 

It was Mr Begley’s first time participating in a triathlon. He was the designated swimmer of a three-man team and had to swim 1.5km in the sea.

Mr Molloy and Mr White were to handle the 36km cycle leg and the 10km run respectively. The relay started at about 8.50am with the swim segment, and Mr Begley was spotted submerged below the surface of the sea about 45 minutes later.

He was taken ashore and a medical crew attended to him. Mr Begley was pronounced dead at Singapore General Hospital at 11.10am that day.

 
 
 

The race was co-organised by the Triathlon Association of Singapore (TAS) and event management firm Orange Room.

Responding to queries from The Straits Times, Honorary Secretary for TAS Raymond Chong said that they have conducted an internal investigation and will be enforcing certain measures with immediate effect.

For one, event organisers will conduct a swim clinic and swim rescue simulation prior to all triathlon events. These will done for the upcoming Singapore International Triathlon, which will be held on Sept 23 this year.

Mr Begley’s girlfriend, Ms Maria Vanessa Salaysay Raymundo, said the surveillance and rescue procedures employed on the day of the tragedy could have been better. 

Ms Raymundo, who was present in court on Thursday, added: “Technology can and should be used to monitor the condition and even the location of the athletes during these races."

“Today, health and fitness trackers are very accessible in the market. I would like to see the triathlon organisers team up with the suppliers of such devices to deploy these during events and also to develop a program to aggregate the data and allow organisers to monitor the condition of each and every athlete during the race, in real time."

“I miss the bright light that (Mr Begley) shone on everyone, a light that was extinguished far too soon but will continue to shine on in our hearts.”