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UAE safety staff lacking, swimmer says

Washington -- Too few medical and safety personnel at a United Arab Emirates race played a role in the death of U.S. swimmer Fran Crippen, a fellow competitor said Monday.

Christine Jennings, 23, a Longmont, Colo., swimmer who also competed in Saturday's 10-kilometer world cup open-water event, during which the former University of Virginia star died, told The Washington Post no one responded to her signals for help when she was overcome by blazing heat and warm surf.

Jennings said she vomited, became disoriented and veered off course, eventually turning over to swim on her back with her arm upraised in a distress signal. But no one came to her aid and she eventually struggled to shore, where she was taken to a hospital.

"It was a disaster," she told the Post. "I'm floating on my back for several minutes, thinking 'Why isn't anybody checking on me?'"

The world swimming governing body FINA has said it will investigate Crippen's death, and the U.S. Swimming Federation announced Monday it will conduct its own separate investigation.

"FINA needs to understand what happened and not brush this off as some freak incident, which it wasn't," Jennings said. "They need to make changes. They signed off on this race ... There are a lot of questions I want to ask."
Crippen, 26, died during the last leg of the Marathon Swimming World Cup. UAE Swimming Federation Secretary Saeed al-Hamour said Sunday doctors determined his sudden death was caused by severe fatigue.

A death certificate sent Sunday night from the United Arab Emirates listed heat exhaustion and drowning as the causes of Crippen's death, his mother and sister told the newspaper.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI).

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