Fellow American pro Jesse Thomas was riding behind Matt Russell and witnessed the accident.
“He had just caught me about 5-10 min before and was in front of me heading back into town from Mauna Lani at that first intersection that leads to Waikoloa,” said Thomas to Slowtwitch. “Tailwind section, haven’t looked but I’m guessing we were going well over 30mph, he was pushing hard. I saw a truck start to cross the intersection and thought, ‘that’s cutting it way too close’, then the next moment a van pulled out behind the truck to try to cross as well. It looked like the crossing guard was animated in some way, either trying to wave the van quickly through or trying to get it to stop, but I couldn’t tell what was happening in the brief moments it all went down. I sat up immediately and yelled “oh fuck!” Matt saw it too and sat up and hit his brakes but had probably less than a second to do so and the van was too wide to miss from his angle. He went straight into the side of it nearly full speed. Super loud crash, looked like bike parts shattering, etc…
Matt Russell’s wife, Gillian has shared this statement on Matt’s condition with us:
At this time, Matt remains in the hospital and he is getting the care he desperately needs.
Since the accident, Matt has had multiple procedures and surgeries to address the life threatening injuries he suffered Saturday.
While Matt is resting more comfortably than yesterday we are not out of the woods yet as Matt’s doctors remain concerned with the magnitude and severity of his concussion and vascular injuries.
Matt loves to race and I know he will want to get back when he’s able. However, it’s way too early to know if and when that may happen.
At this point we just want Matt home. Home with me and his newborn son – it’s going to take months of intense rehab to get him prepared for everyday life – and frankly the sooner we can get started the better.
KAILUA-KONA — A professional athlete suffered serious injuries after he struck a vehicle on the cycling course of the 39th annual Ironman championship, Saturday morning.
The accident occurred around 11 a.m. Hawaii Police Maj. Robert Wagner said the cyclist was traveling toward Kona on Queen Kaahumanu Highway when he broadsided a vehicle crossing the highway from Waikoloa Road.
According to the Ironman Track app, the athlete was 75 miles into the 112-mile course and had four hours of race time when he was last tracked at mile marker 76.
The cyclist was taken to North Hawaii Community Hospital. Wagner said the cyclist was reported in serious condition around 1 p.m. By 3:30 p.m., his condition appeared to be improving.
Janey Brink said the accident happened right in front of her while she was cheering the athletes on from the highway with family and friends. She said the cyclist was going full speed when the vehicle pulled in front of him in the intersection.
“I’ve never seen a body go through what his body went through,” Brink said. “He came out of his clips.”
Brink splits her time between Hawaii Island and Albuquerque, New Mexico. She said she came to visit with her husband and friends, specifically to watch Ironman.
Brink said police used her umbrella to cover the cyclist. Officials also asked they stay around so they could talk to them about the crash.
“No one ever came to talk to us and we stayed for a long time,” Brink said.
Wagner said there were some cones in the area where the crash occurred but there are also several police officers directing traffic at the intersection. The accident is under investigation.
Brink said those directing traffic were allowing cars to cross the intersection two or three vehicles at a time.
“We couldn’t understand why cars in that intersection were still moving,” she said.
Brink said the riders had no idea there was an incident in the intersection and that it was another incident waiting to happen, almost.
“This rider, he could do nothing,” she said. “These riders need to have a clear path and that intersection was not clear.”
There was another collision on the cycling course involving a pedestrian and a competitor. Wagner said the cyclist picked up his bike, but went out of view of the cameras that watch the course. Wagner wasn’t sure if the cyclist continued on, but it appeared that way.
Wagner said Saturday evening no other collisions on the course were reported.