SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

July 26, 2013

Widow of drowned triathlete files suit

BY JULIE MANGANIS
STAFF WRITER

---- — BEVERLY — The widow of a Beverly man who drowned during a triathlon in Vermont last year has filed a $1 million wrongful death suit against the event’s organizers.

Lawyers for Richard Angelo’s widow, Cheryl, say Colorado-based USA Triathlon should never have allowed the event to take place in an unusually choppy Lake Champlain, failed to properly train staff in responding to emergencies, didn’t have enough staff on hand during the event and did not have adequate lifesaving equipment, such as an automated external defibrillator.

The suit, filed Wednesday in Salem Superior Court, seeks at least $1 million in damages for wrongful death, pain and suffering, emotional distress on the part of his widow, and punitive damages.

Angelo was 53 and, according to family members, in top physical condition when he took part in the Aug. 18, 2012, event in Burlington, Vt.

A triathlon involves periods of running, swimming and cycling.

The conditions that day included bright sun and 3- to 4-foot waves, according to the suit, as well as a Burlington police investigation following the death.

Angelo was last seen alive as he appeared to be swimming off-course. The Coast Guard auxiliary officers at the event tried to direct Angelo back to the course, according to a report in the Burlington Free Press on the investigation.

Angelo waved to them. He was next seen floating in the water. The water was so choppy that it took approximately seven to nine minutes to reach Angelo, who was then pulled from the water. Rescuers performed CPR on Angelo but were unable to revive him.

An autopsy later concluded that the principal cause of death was drowning.

“If the defendant (USA Triathlon) had instituted or employed adequate rescue procedures during the swim event, including but not limited to having an AED (defibrillator) available to him in a timely fashion, the death of Richard Angelo would not have occurred,” attorneys James Swartz, Joseph Swartz and Alan Cantor said in their complaint.

Event organizers said at the time that it was the first death in the organization’s 30-year history.

Chuck Menke, a spokesman for USA Triathlon, said the organization had not yet seen the suit and could not comment on it.

The organization has previously disputed some of the findings of Burlington police concerning the water conditions that day and has said it believes the conditions were safe to hold the event that day.

Angelo’s widow also seeks damages for the emotional distress she suffered when, she said, event organizers failed to immediately notify her of the emergency.

Courts reporter Julie Manganis can be reached at 978-338-2521, via email at jmanganis@salemnews.com or on Twitter @SNJulieManganis.