SINGAPORE: The 28-year-old man who collapsed less than a kilometre from the finishing line at last year’s Standard Chartered Marathon had suffered a “sudden cardiac death due to natural causes”, a corner’s inquiry heard on Thursday (May 4).
John Gibson, a Briton who lived in Hong Kong and travelled to Singapore to run the half marathon collapsed at 6.24am along Esplanade Drive, about two hours into the 21.1km run.
A runner saw Mr Gibson collapse and shouted for help, and a volunteer photographer who was trained in first aid rushed to help him. The photographer started administering CPR, although he could not detect a pulse and said that Mr Gibson’s body was already cold to the touch.
A security guard was alerted to the situation two minutes after Mr Gibson collapsed, and immediately informed her supervisor. The supervisor instructed the command post to send an ambulance, and ran towards the nearest ambulance, only to realise it had been sent out for another case. He then ran to the next station to get another ambulance. Both ambulances were stationed less than a kilometre away from where the runner had collapsed.
At around the same time, a roving first aider on duty was alerted. He arrived at the scene five minutes after Mr Gibson had collapsed.
An ambulance reached the scene at 6.34am, 10 minutes after the runner collapsed. It arrived at Singapore General Hospital with Mr Gibson at 6.45am. However, he could not be resuscitated and was pronounced dead at 8.50am on Dec 4, 2016.
State Coroner Marvin Bay said the ground response complied with the medical operations plan and casualty management procedure set out by marathon organisers.
Mr Gibson collapsed at the 20.3km mark, 700m away from a fully equipped medical tent. There were 10 roving first aiders, four nurses and two ambulances in the vicinity, Mr Bay said.
At the inquiry on Thursday, Mr Gibson’s father, Mr John Robert Gibson, 64, raised concerns about the 10-minute delay between his son’s collapse and the arrival of the ambulance.
“The (supervisor) didn’t know that the nearest ambulance had been sent away, so he ran to that one first. If the command centre had been notified immediately, it might have known (this)”, Mr Robert Gibson said. He suggested that the “chain of command” for future races be reviewed.
The elder Mr Gibson, who teaches part-time at a university in Hong Kong, also suggested that marathon organisers could do more to educate and advise runners, especially those who have never run in “a climate like this”.
Foreign runners may not be able to acclimatise to Singapore’s particularly hot and humid weather, he said. “These factors weighted the dice against (them)”, the father said.
While the StanChart marathon organisers give out a handbook containing information and tips, it is “very slim” and does not give prospective runners any advice in choosing which marathon (full, half, 10km, etc) is right for them, Mr Robert Gibson told the coroner.
Organisers should help participants understand the possible risks better, he added. “Maybe (my son) would have done things differently (had he known of the risks).”
The state coroner welcomed the father’s suggestions. Though he found that the ground response was in “full compliance” with the race’s established plan and procedure, Mr Bay said organisers should “look into their response in the wake of an event to identity any areas for improvement, particularly in the area of expediting assistance” to anyone in need of medical attention.
He also called on runners to take responsibility and “listen to your body”. He encouraged runners to get a good night’s sleep, hydrate themselves and ensure they are in “optimum health” before a race.
Agreeing with Mr Robert Gibson’s suggestions, Mr Bay said it would be “ideal” for organisers to provide more in-depth advice to participants, who may benefit from additional preventive measures and advice, especially for those who are less experienced in running in Singapore’s climate.