British double Olympic sailing medalist Andrew Simpson died on Thursday when a Swedish catamaran capsized during America’s Cup training on San Francisco Bay, officials said.
Simpson, a 36-year-old father of two boys, was trapped underneath the catamaran of Swedish team Artemis for about 10 minutes after it flipped over, and efforts to revive him failed.
“Our prayers are with Andrew Simpson’s family, his wife and kids, and also the rest of my teammates,” a shaken Paul Cayard, chief executive of Artemis Racing, said hours after the accident. “It’s a shocking experience to go through.”
A fleet of rescue boats — including chase boats from rival teams — and helicopters went to the aid of the stricken vessel.
Once Simpson was freed from the wreckage, rescuers attempted cardiopulmonary resuscitation as he was transported to the St Francis Yacht Club, where paramedics were waiting.
“Unfortunately, they ended up pronouncing him dead at the St Francis Yacht Club,” San Francisco Fire Department spokeswoman Mindy Talmadge said.
Talmadge said she had no information on what caused the boat to capsize.
Another sailor on the catamaran, New Zealand Olympic medalist Craig Monk, suffered a neck injury in the accident. Monk is in hospital in San Francisco, but his injuries are not life-threatening.
Artemis Racing spoke of the team’s “immense sadness.”
“Despite attempts to revive him, by doctors afloat and subsequently ashore, his life was lost,” it said.
Simpson was an experienced yachtsman, winner of Olympic gold in Beijing in 2008 and Olympic silver in London last year in the keelboat Star class.
“Andrew was an immensely popular and respected member of the sailing community, and his two Olympic medals were testament to his talent,” America’s Cup officials said in a statement posted on their Web site.
Simpson — known across the sailing world as “Bart” after the cartoon character — had moved to San Francisco with his wife, Leah, and sons, Freddie and Hamish, to train.
He had written in March of his excitement, saying the move had been “pretty hectic,” but the America’s Cup “should be fun.”
Simpson’s death plunged the British sailing world into mourning.
Stephen Park, Olympic manager for the Royal Yachting Association, described him as “a fantastic sailor, who got the best out of everyone he sailed with.”