Published: Jan 13, 2014 5:55 PM EST
Updated: Jan 13, 2014 6:12 PM EST

COLLIER COUNTY, Fla.- An athlete dies competing in a triathlon. WINK News has learned 57-year-old Don Green went into cardiac arrest during the swim portion of the event, that swim is just the first obstacle competitors face.

"It's sad for the gentleman and his family and you never want that to happen," said triathlete Todd Saunders.

It took merely minutes for a day fit for the fittest to turn tragic.

"We work so hard, we train so hard, so the last thing you want is for something like this to happen," said Saunders.

According to the sheriffs report, 57-year-old Don Green was found unresponsive in the water. Green was competing in the hits triathlon, and went into cardiac arrest just as he began the first part of the race the half a mile swim. The CEO of the event tells WINK News, it's horrific this happened.

"We have heavy hearts of the result of what happened yesterday to that gentleman, he had cardiac arrest while he was swimming," said CEO of HITS Triathlon Tom Struzzieri.

13 certified lifeguards and a North Naples Fire boat were in the water keeping an eye out for the 180 male swimmers.  Todd Saunders was competing and embarked on the 750 meter swim at the same time as green.

"There were lifeguards on site with kayaks and paddleboards and there were ample EMT's and fire and rescue on the beach and from what I understand, they did a really good job  getting the gentleman out of the water as fast as they could."

And now there is an empty feeling amongst the tight knit world of triathletes, even those who didn't know green are feeling the loss.

"Anytime it happens to a fellow triathlete, it is very sad and hopefully we can learn from this."

This is the first time in triathlons three year history, a death has occurred. This past weekend was the third time the event has come to Naples.
According to a recent USA Today report of the 45 total triathlon deaths between 2003 and 2011, 31 died from cardiac failure during the swim.