In swim meet off Yeosu, man and woman die

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In swim meet off Yeosu, man and woman die

Two participants in a national swimming competition near Yeosu, South Jeolla, Saturday died.

A 64-year-old man surnamed Kang and a 45-year-old woman surnamed Cho passed out in the sea during the 1-kilometer (0.6 mile) swimming competition. Kang passed out first and a few minutes later Cho did, according to police.

They were retrieved by lifeguards and sent to a nearby hospital, where they were pronounced dead.

The authorities’ investigation into the deaths is bringing to light some slipshod safety issues.

The match began without a warm-up exercise, a basic safety measure to prevent heart attacks, muscle cramps and other accidents in the water.

“We asked participants to do warm-ups [on their own],” said an official of Yeosu’s swimming league, which, with the provincial swimming league of South Jeolla, hosted the competition. “But we didn’t conduct an official warm-up exercise for everyone in fear of creating accidents before the match, since many participants were barefoot.”

There was only one ambulance and one automated external defibrillator (AED) available on the shore, even though some 570 people were scheduled to participate in events that day.

When Kang was taken to the hospital in the ambulance, the AED was inside the vehicle. Cho was reportedly left without any treatment for some 20 minutes until another ambulance arrived.

The match was also held after noon, when the sun was the hottest of the day.

The temperature in Yeosu on Saturday hit 31.9 degrees Celsius (89.4 degrees Fahrenheit), according to the Korea Meteorological Administration.

Participants at one point were swimming with hundreds of other people in a 1-kilometer course.

The race was originally supposed to launch each team, comprising some 100 participants, into the sea at 30-minute intervals. There were three teams in total.

But for some reason, the teams were asked to start their races at five-minute intervals, so there were some 300 people swimming together at one point, preventing a clear view for lifeguards.

The competition has not previously had an accident in its nine years of existence.

BY ESTHER CHUNG, CHOI KYUNG-HO [chung.juhee@joongang.co.kr]

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