LAS VEGAS -- The community is mourning after an athlete and former high school principal passed away during a race at Lake Mead Saturday.
The Clark County Coroner's Office confirmed 59-year-old Pat Hayden, a lifelong swimmer, suffered a heart attack during the swimming leg of the Pumpkin Man Triathlon.
Hayden is described as a family man. The coroner informed Hayden's adult sons their father suffered a heart attack in the water.
Michael Geeser was one of the triathlon participants. He said he was unaware of the death until he returned home from the race.
"Our hearts are absolutely broken over this tragedy," he said.
Hayden was the former principal for Arbor View High School. Sunday, some former students remembered him and how he loved all sports, not just triathlons.
"He came to every game. A big supporter. We were doing great that year, and we always saw him coming out and always in the stands," said Arbor View alumnus Brian McIntyre.
Hayden was well-respected. The baseball field is named after him. As principal, he emphasized thorough background checks of his coaches to ensure student safety.
"You have to go through the finger prints and the background checks and everything to be a coach here," said Arbor View Assistant Football Coach Chuck Razmic.
Hayden was a seasoned swimmer, which makes his death unusual. He previously raced longer distances at Lake Mead. Triathletes say the death serves as a warning to new swimmers, who should test the open waters before racing.
"A lot of people who train for these races, especially for those people just starting out, only train in a pool," Geeser said. "Sometimes when they get to an open body of water like Lake Mead, that's the first time they've ever been in that type of environment."
Hayden's former students will remember him for speaking at their graduation after his retirement. "It was great. He talked about summer and everything, living life, going to college," McIntyre said.
The Pumpkin Man race has excellent safety measures in place. In this case, emergency responders couldn't do enough to save Hayden. One of the patrolling staff found him and tried performing CPR on him to no avail.
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