Woman whose husband died in adventure race says Ironman should have halted after deaths

Co Wicklow man Carl Dempsey became ill during endurance event in September 2021

A woman whose husband died whilst participating in an adventure race in Connemara two years ago has said that the organisers of Ironman in Youghal, Co Cork should have cancelled the event when two competitors died during the opening swim section last Sunday.

Carl Dempsey of Kilmacanogue, Co Wicklow was taking part in the Gaelforce race on Maamturk mountain on September 11th, 2021 when he became ill. He received medical attention but was pronounced dead a short time later.

The race, which included a 35km cycle, running and walking stages, kayaking and a 7km climb was immediately called off following the death of the father of four, who was a vice-president at software company Salesforce.

His wife Lorraine Dempsey told the Opinion Line, on Cork’s 96FM, that she was deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Meath native Brendan Wall (44) and Canadian national Ivan Chittenden (64) at an Ironman event last Sunday.


Mrs Dempsey said she was surprised to hear that the Ironman race continued in spite of the deaths of two participants.

“I think it is one thing to continue on the race while someone is being attended to. But once you know there has been a fatality and in this Cork case, something that is extremely rare multiple fatalities, it should have been cancelled.

“At that point out it’s not just out of respect for the families and individuals who have passed away but also from a safety point where you have so many first responders and rescue teams involved in looking after two people who have been taken from the sea. For me personally, it left a bad taste in my mouth.”

Lorraine commended the people of Youghal for holding a candlelit vigil as a mark of respect to the two athletes. “Things like that are so meaningful for the families even though they mightn’t be here.”

Lorraine said she feels tremendous sadness for the families of Mr Chittenden and Mr Wall having been in their position just two years ago.

“Brendan and Ivan were doing something they loved and it is very important to remember their families”.

Meanwhile, Minister for Sport Catherine Martin said on Friday that what happened at the Youghal Ironman event was a “horrific tragedy” and that the “conflicting narratives around it adds to the hurt and pain that the families are feeling.”

She said the gardai and the coroner were investigating the deaths and it would not be appropriate for her to comment at this juncture.