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Runner collapses, dies during Gasparilla

As Kristi Cottier approached the 7-mile mark of the Bank of America Gasparilla Distance Classic Saturday, she saw a man fall. His eyes rolled back. He appeared to be having a seizure.

Cottier and others at Bayshore and Gandy boulevards signaled for help. Others administered CPR. Cottier called 911 on a cell phone.

Tampa Fire Rescue soon arrived and tried to resuscitate James Hamilton, but it was too late. Hamilton, 34, of Tampa, was dead on arrival at Tampa General Hospital, apparently of a heart attack, police spokesman Capt. Bob Guidara said.

This is the second time in the race's 26-year history that a Gasparilla participant has died. In 1994, Gary Peacock, 55, of Tampa, collapsed outside the post-race awards ceremony.

Runners can choose to enter a 5K (3.1-mile) or 15K (9.3-mile) race.

On the event's Web site, organizers advise participants to stop running if they feel ill and seek aid at a water station.

It also says that EMS, police and fire rescue are available for medical emergencies on the course and that a medical tent staffed with TGH medical personnel is based at the finish line.

Cottier, an avid runner from Treasure Island, was participating in her first 15K race and her second Gasparilla since 2001.

"As a runner and an athlete, it puts everything in perspective," she said. "When someone is that young and is healthy _ he wasn't 6 foot, 380 pounds _ it puts everything in perspective for you."