A runner died just two kilometres away from the finish line of the Montreal marathon
Published Monday, September 23, 2019 7:24AM EDT Last Updated Monday, September 23, 2019 6:34PM EDT
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 collapsed about two hours into the race, near the intersection of St. Hubert St. and Cherrier Rd. He was about two kilometres away from the finish line for the 21.1-kilometre half-marathon, which he had been registered to run. He was pronounced dead Monday morning at the CHUM.
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.
Marathon officials said their medical support was well coordinated with more than 50 defibrillators available.
Urgences-Sante spokesperson Valerie Tremblay told CTV News Montreal that first responders arrived on the scene seven minutes after they received a call about Neely's collapse, adding that the marathon had its own medical team in place for the race.
Cardiologist Chris Labos said that response time is impressive.
"When you consider the logistics involved in getting an ambulance or paramedics to a location – and especially when you consider at a marathon. It's not a group of people located in one space, it's a group of people spread out over several kilometres across the city. So the logistics of it getting someone where they need to go is actually quite complicated," said Labos. "When it comes to an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest or any type of cardiac arrest, the key factor is, of course, time."
Shortage of volunteers
The event was delayed by almost an hour because of a shortage of volunteers.
In a Facebook post Sunday morning, organizers said the event was delayed because "the safety of the course was not assured at the scheduled time of departure. The organization redeployed teams on the courses to ensure safety throughout the course. Our priority was to make sure everything was safe for our runners."
Late Monday, Montreal Marathon organizers say they were "profoundly saddened" by Neely's death. They thanked Good Samaritans for quickly jumping in to help Neely, but also disputed any suggestions that the delay to the start of the race played any kind of role in the incident that led to Neely's death.
"Any reports linking the race’s delayed start to this incident are inaccurate," race organizers said in a statement.
"Staffing, planning, and preparation related to medical support for the event has been ongoing for nearly a year, and all resources were appropriately in place on race day," noting that more than 80 health professionals were stationed throughout the course, and that eight ambulances with 16 paramedics were dedicated to the race.
A Quebec coroner is investigating the man's death.
Not the first heart attack at the marathon
This isn't the first cardiac arrest at a Montreal marathon. In 2016, a man in his 40s suffered a heart attack at the same race, but recovered.
Quebec Health Minister Danielle McCann said while there can never be zero-risk at these kinds of events, the government will look into perhaps improving security.
"Can we provide more measures in events like the Montreal marathon to help? Of course it's always good to review what we can take to prevent such a terrible event," she said.
With files from La Presse Canadienne.