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Family Says Man Who Died During Chesapeake Bay Swim Was A Great Athlete

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Robert Matysek
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ANNAPOLIS, Md. (WJZ)—A 58-year-old man from Mt. Pleasant, S.C. is dead after suffering a medical emergency at the Great Chesapeake Bay Swim. Now first responders are warning people about the dangers of these types of events.

Rick Ritter spoke with family members of the fallen swimmer.

The family of Robert Matysek says he was an experienced swimmer, but complained of stomach cramps Sunday morning.

Matysek was pulled from the water unresponsive around 11:15 a.m. Sunday near the Bay Bridge. He was one of more than 600 swimmers attempting to complete a 4.4-mile swim across the bay.

A former college athlete, his family says he was an experienced swimmer with a passion for Baltimore.

“They came in early for the Bay Swim so he could attend Friday night’s Orioles games,” said Gayle Matysek, victim’s sister-in-law.

Tom Matysek is still trying to come to grips with the loss of his brother Robert, 24 hours after he died during the Great Chesapeake Bay Swim.

“As he describes it: ‘This is the best day after Christmas in the whole year,'” Tom Matysek said.

Robert Matysek’s love for swimming was shared by his entire family. All five brothers trained harder than ever for the event, which would have been his 20th crossing of the bay. But just minutes in, tragedy struck.

“I knew something was wrong when I saw a kayaker in the middle of the course,” Tom Matysek said.

Volunteers pulled numerous swimmers from the water during the event.

Officials say Robert Matysek was about a quarter of the way in the 4.4-mile swim when he suffered a cardiac arrest.

“Saw the rescue boat and then realized it was our brother, and I’m still having trouble with that,” Tom Matysek said.

Shortly after, Robert Matysek was pronounced dead. Anne Arundel County Fire Department couldn’t have had a quicker response.

“The boat was already stationed on scene. We had paramedics with advanced life support gear,” said Lt. Russ Davies, Anne Arundel Fire.

Davies says they had a similar tragedy at an event back in 2011.

“Another swimmer experienced a medical emergency. It appeared to be a heart attack,” Davies said.

They say athlete or not, a swim like this cannot be taken lightly.

“Anybody’s that’s in condition that works out can find themselves in that type of position,” Davies said.

Especially when in the bay.

“Conditions are very different from a pool,” Tom Matysek said. “I’m a pool swimmer, competitive swimmer, and it is radically different.”

Proving these events always have the potential to be life threatening no matter how prepared you are.

“The safety message that would come out of this is don’t exceed what your capabilities are,” Davies said.

The State Medical Examiner’s Office is still determining the official cause of death.

The Great Chesapeake Bay Swim organization released a statement saying they’re saddened by the loss and extend their heartfelt sympathies to the Matysek family.

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