The untimely death of a runner at the Eau Palm Beach Marathon underscores
the growing need for community leaders to recognize the importance of
keeping an Automated External Defibrillator nearby when people gather
in public places.
The man, who will remain unnamed at the request of the family, died of
sudden cardiac arrest as he completed the Eau Palm Beach Marathon last
year. A friend who ran the 13.1 mile half-marathon with him said that
he went off to the bathroom after finishing the race, but never came back.
He had suffered SCA and collapsed while using a portable toilet on the
premises of the race. Those who knew him said he was a wonderful man,
having re-located from Italy to Miami to marry and start a family with
the love of his life.
As the popularity of marathons continue to grow throughout the United States,
many race organizers are recognizing the importance of establishing a
sufficient number of aid and medical stations, staff, and support to ensure
that on race day, participants have everything they need to stay healthy
and safe. This planning must incorporate a plan to make AEDs present and
available for use during race day, as this latest sad and avoidable tragedy
Why all marathon organizers should have an AED on site during race day
AEDs are small, handheld devices that save the lives of people actively
heart attack or sudden cardiac arrest. The chances of survival for a person suffering from an attack is greatly
increased if an AED is used within the first two minutes of the onset
of the attack; survival rates double for each minute once an AED is deployed.
An AED delivers an electrical shock to the heart to "right" the
sporadic heart beat rhythms that SCA causes. They are safe for use on
all shapes and sizes of people, and are extremely user-friendly for the
layperson, even if that person has no medical training or knowledge. Although
AED training is recommended for people who might use be in a situation
where they need to use an AED on a victim, for example, like a marathon
race volunteer, training is not required to use the device effectively
to save a life. Devices on the market today "speak" to the user,
instructing them step-by-step on how to apply and use the device correctly.
There is simply no good reason to not have AEDs available at an event like
a marathon, where potentially thousands of people gather in a public place
to participate in a physical activity. AEDs are inexpensive and guaranteed
to save lives.
Did Eau Palm Beach Marathon organizers have an AED available during the race?
According to the Eau Palm Beach Marathon's website, "aid stations"
were established approximately every 1.5 miles along the race route. That
would mean there were at least eight stations on the race grounds. The
aid stations stocked sports drinks and water for runners.
In addition to the aid stations, the website states that "Medical
personnel will be available at the start line, finish area and throughout
the course to cover minor medical issues." Did they adequately plan
for major medical issue, such as the SCA at least one runner actually suffered?
We could not find any mention of AEDs being available on the marathon's
website, nor could we find an AED in pictures of the aid stations or the
Could the Marathon's organizers be legally held responsible for this
There may be a personal injury claim for the family of someone who dies
while running a Marathon against the Marathon's organizers (more accurately,
their insurance company) for negligently failing to intervene and help
save his life.
According to a study published in an October 2012 edition of a
medicine and sports journal, early use of AEDs can "dramatically improve the survival rate of
marathon runners who suffer sudden cardiac arrest (SCA)". The organizers
for Eau Palm Beach Marathon should have known that, and should have incorporated
cheap, effective AEDs into their strategic emergency planning for race day.
Most notably, Chicago Marathon organizers, under the leadership of executive
race director Carey Punkowski, consistently exceed each year basic community
and public standards for deploying AEDs along the 26.2 mile race course.
They stock each aid station, each ambulance, and each emergency volunteer
bike and golf cart team, all of whom patrolled the entire route, with
at least one AED.
Dr. George Chiampas, DO, the medical director for the Chicago Marathon
in 2012, has this to say about the
availability and use of AEDs at marathons around the world. "There should never be a situation where a person
collapses from sudden cardiac arrest, the leading cause of death in the
U.S., and someone or a group just watches and waits for an ambulance,"
Had the Eau Palm Beach Marathon organizers recognized the risk they took
by not incorporating AEDs into their strategic emergency and medical planning
for race day, one runner might still be alive, and a family might still
If someone you love or know has died as a result of sudden cardiac arrest
at a marathon or during another public spectacle or public venue, call
our offices to speak with a case manager and get a free evaluation and
legal opinion from Craig Goldenfarb personally at 561-444-4440.