'Absolute tragedy': Athlete dies during Ironman event in Queensland

·Sports Editor
·3-min read
Dave Hayes, pictured here before his tragic death.
Dave Hayes died after the swimming leg of the Ironman 70.3 event in Cairns. Image: Facebook

Tributes are pouring in after a highly respected pilot and army veteran died during an Ironman triathlon event in Cairns over the weekend.

Dave Hayes died during the swim leg of the Ironman 70.3 event on Sunday.

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Organisers said Hayes, a Brisbane-based pilot for Jetstar, required medical attention during the race in Palm Cove.

They said they were “deeply saddened” by Hayes’ death, posting on Facebook: “We thank the swim safety and emergency services personnel for their response to provide the athlete with medical support.

“Our condolences go out to the athlete’s family and friends, whom we will continue to support during this difficult time.”

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Hayes worked as an Army officer for 27 years before working for Jetstar and once swam the English Channel.

“Dad passed away this morning doing something that he loved so passionately," Daughter Rachel wrote on Facebook.

“He will be remembered for his incredible passion for flying, sailing, shooting and swimming; his hilariously terrible dad jokes; his corn fritters and his ability to always be high on his favourite ‘drug’ (as he called it) — life.

“He was my hero and my biggest cheerleader. I will always be Daddy’s little girl, no matter the age and I will always strive to be the best version of myself because of him.

“I will continue to celebrate the parts of you that live on in us.”

Palm Cove, pictured here where the Ironman 70.3 event took place.
A file photo of Palm Cove where the Ironman 70.3 event took place. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

Tributes pour in after tragic death of Dave Hayes

Donna Gill, one of Hayes' Ironman teammates, said he was a “true gentleman” and a “go-getter”.

“We are immensely heartbroken,” she said.

“We continued the day to finish what Dave had started with us that morning. He would’ve wanted that.

“Emotionally tough but teamwork is teamwork and we leave no man behind.

“We eventually got there in the end mate - we crossed the finish line knowing YOU were the only true Ironman yesterday. We have your medal Dave and will leave it with you - you bloody well earnt it that’s for sure.”

Dave Hayes, pictured here on Facebook.
Dave Hayes was a pilot and Army veteran. Image: Facebook

Hayes' death is the third in six years at the event.

Erica Atkins, 43, died after the 2015 event, while a 47-year-old Japanese man died in 2016.

“The conditions on Sunday morning were fine - in the end safety’s the most important thing and the event co-ordinators made the call to go ahead,” Former Queensland Surf Lifesaving regional manager Rob Davidson told the The Cairns Post.

“Anyone that competes in endurance events has done sufficient training.

“There are always risks associated, but in the end it’s just an absolute tragedy.

“There have only been three such incidents in 10 Ironmans, though obviously one is too many.”

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