Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 28 December 2014

'Full probe' into Olympian's death

Former Olympic champion Andrew Simpson died after his catamaran capsized in training in San Francisco Bay ahead of the America's Cup
Former Olympic champion Andrew Simpson died after his catamaran capsized in training in San Francisco Bay ahead of the America's Cup
The overturned Artemis Racing AC72 catamaran in San Francisco Bay (AP/San Jose Mercury News, Karl Mondon)

America's Cup bosses have promised a full investigation into the accident in which British Olympic gold medal winner Andrew Simpson died.

Simpson, 36, was sailing with the Swedish Artemis Racing team in San Francisco Bay when his catamaran capsized on Thursday and he became trapped underneath.

The sailor, affectionately known as "Bart", was one of 11 crew members aboard the 72ft vessel which flipped over at about 12.30pm local time. He was trapped underwater by the AC72 catamaran's platform for about 10 minutes, his team said, and doctors both in the water and on the shore could not revive him after he was freed from the wreckage.

Tributes from the sailing world and beyond have poured in for the married father-of-two, who won gold at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Stephen Barclay, the chief executive officer of the America's Cup Event Authority, said an investigation would address why the accident occurred.

He told BBC Radio 5 Live: "One of the things about accidents such as these is that there is lots of speculation about various aspects of what happened. What we do know is that he was trapped underneath and it was for a few minutes, we're not sure if it was one, two, three or 10.

"I imagine that'll be in the evidence when we review what actually happened. These boats are very fast and if these sorts of things happen then there are procedures and those sorts of things that we follow. We have boats follow these vessels, there's divers and doctors in case such things like this happen and those procedures were followed."

The accident is reported to have happened near Treasure Island in San Francisco Bay. Footage showed the yacht's sail lying on the water's surface and one of its two red hulls raised in the air as rescue boats surrounded it.

Simpson was part of the Artemis Racing team that planned to challenge for the 34th America's Cup, and was the team's strategist. He was sailing alongside his childhood friend and Olympic partner Iain Percy, who is Artemis' sailing team director and tactician.

As well as achieving gold in Beijing, Simpson won a silver medal in last year's Olympic Games in London alongside Percy, both in the Star class. Sir Keith Mills, the deputy chairman of Locog (London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games) was due to be made a Knight Grand Cross - the highest grade of knighthood - but pulled out of the ceremony following Simpson's death.

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