El Cerrito man dies at Bay to Breakers finish line

A man collapsed and died of an apparent heart attack at the finish line of the Bay to Breakers race Sunday after finishing the race in just more than an hour.

A witness said Joe Spinale, 53, of El Cerrito, appeared to be struggling for balance before he crossed the finish line on Great Highway. “About 3 feet after the finish line, he keeled over. It was almost like he had his heart attack before the finish line and tried to make it,” the spectator said.

Spinale crossed the finish line between 8:50 and 9 a.m., according to witnesses. The 12-kilometer race started at 8 a.m.

Race organizers declined to comment on the death “out of respect for the family,” spokeswoman Denise Lamott said.

The death is the first in the Bay to Breakers race since 2003, when Nicholas Ng, a 28-year-old engineer from Mountain View, collapsed from dehydration in Golden Gate Park. In 2004, a runner collapsed from an apparent heart attack near Shrader and Cole streets, but was revived by an off-duty paramedic.

Spinale was the fifth Bay to Breakers runner to die since 1995. He has been listed as a participant in many races over the last few years, including annual 10- and 5-kilometer races in San Francisco and around the Bay Area.

amartin@examiner.com

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