Galveston Ironman Triathlon athlete dies, private investigation launched into his death

The widow of an athlete who suffered a medical emergency while competing in the Galveston Ironman Triathlon, and later died, has now launched a private investigation.

According to 49-year-old Jean-Francois Alain's family, he didn't have any known health problems. They want this independent investigation, not only to find why and how he died but also to determine if there was an issue with the emergency response during the Galveston Ironman Triathlon two Sundays ago, on April 7.

"We want to understand. His sons want to understand because we don't know the whole story here," says his widow Veronique Tremblay.

There are a lot of questions from the 49-year-old's two teen sons and his widow after Alain, a Canadian, came here to Texas to compete in the Galveston Ironman Triathlon.

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"We were so proud of him. He was in his best shape ever," Tremblay says, but during Galveston's half Ironman triathlon earlier this month, in the 1.2-mile swim, Alain raised his hand, signaling he needed help.

"We've had quite a few folks reach out to give us an understanding of what they saw," explains Attorney Will Moye.

Alain's family hired Moye and launched an investigation to find out what happened and if there was a delay in getting him medical attention.

"It's certainly not an allegation, but it is a concern that there were perhaps some reaction issues, and maybe some equipment issues that might not have met the expectations that Ironman has and certainly not the expectations participants have," says Moye.

The Galveston competition was supposed to be more training for the 49-year-old, so his wife was still in Canada that Sunday morning.

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"I woke up, and I texted him 'Good luck and I love you, take care, don't do stupid things.' Next thing I know, I was brushing my teeth," Tremblay explains.

Then she says the phone rang and she received the horrible news. Her husband was being rushed by ambulance to the hospital in critical condition. She caught a flight to Houston, and soon stood by her unconscious husband, saying goodbye.

"He was always so strong, so I asked him to give me his strength. He loved listening to music while he was training, cooking, driving. I took some music (to the hospital), some of his best songs, and we were around him, and we told him goodbye," says Alain's widow. 

Alain's wife was set to go with him next month to the Canary Islands, where he was to compete in the full Ironman until tragedy struck in Galveston.

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"He was pursuing a dream, and he died from it. So for us, it's really hard," says Tremblay.

Ironman released the following statement: "We are saddened to confirm the death of a race participant from the IRONMAN 70.3 Texas triathlon. Swim safety personnel recognized a distressed athlete requiring medical attention approximately 950m into the swim. The athlete was attended to quickly and provided immediate medical care before being transported to a nearby hospital where they sadly passed. Our gratitude goes out to the swim safety personnel and first responders for their quick work in assisting the athlete. We share our condolences with the family and friends of the athlete as they go through this very difficult time."

Galveston Island Beach Patrol Chief Peter Davis also sent a statement saying, "Our thoughts are with the family during this difficult time. We are unable to comment on the incident, as the family of the deceased has obtained legal representation. We will provide updates as soon as we are able".

Early indications suggest Jean Francois Alain suffered sudden cardiac arrest, but the results of his autopsy haven't been released yet from the Galveston County Medical Examiner's Office.