Organizers of San Francisco footrace defend medical response

When Peter Hass of Orinda collapsed at the finish line of the Kaiser Permanente San Francisco Half Marathon and 5K Fun Run on Sunday morning, witnesses said that it took nearly 30 minutes for any response from paramedics.

Many runners say that amount of time is “inexcusable” given the number of participants. Race producers, though, say proper medical staff was on hand.

“It was all pretty disturbing,” runner Katie Phillips said. “I consider it a necessity with 10,000 people running. It’s a responsibility to the community to have that at the end.”

According to a statement released by RhodyCo Productions, the San Francisco-based organizer of the race, the claims that medical staff was not onsite are simply not true. The company said an ambulance was stationed at the finish for most of the race.

“The ambulance, stationed at the finish, had been called away to a runner in distress on the course at the time of Peter’s collapse,” the statement said.

Also, the finish area included two medical tents staffed by emergency medical personnel. Three runners, including a medical doctor, administered CPR after Hass’ collapse, according to RhodyCo.

Hass, 36, died at the finish line. His cause of death has not been released. Hass’ family could not be reached for comment.

The 28th annual race took place during record temperatures in The City. The 13.1-mile course loops through Golden Gate Park.

Though health provider Kaiser Permanente was a financial sponsor of the event, it had no responsibility for the medical response during the race, according to RhodyCo officials.

RhodyCo used a private ambulance company instead of contracting with the Fire Department.

Many event organizers contract with private ambulance companies, according to Fire Department Lt. Mindy Talmadge, because they would be required to pay the SFFD overtime.

Firefighters eventually arrived on the scene after being called by witnesses, Talmadge said.

It took 22 minutes from the first call to emergency dispatch before medics arrived, Talmadge said. Callers gave three different locations to the Fire Department, contributing to the delay.

The event is required to have an emergency services plan, according to a temporary street-closure permit issued by The City.

According to Rob Dudgeon, the deputy director of the Office of Emergency Services, an emergency plan was submitted, but The City is investigating whether it was fully implemented. A copy of the plan was not immediately available.

“We don’t have all the answers yet,” Dudgeon said. “It is a tragedy and we are investigating to understand what happened and why it happened.”

RhodyCo has been producing running and walking events in the Bay Area for nearly three decades, according to its website.

Race stats

10,000 Participants

13.1 Miles of half-marathon course

28 Years race has been held

77 Temperature in degrees in The City on Sunday

Sources: Kaiser Permanente San Francisco Half Marathon and 5K Fun Run, National Weather Service

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