Leading Australian triathlete Luke Harrop died today at noon, the result of a tragic hit and run accident in an early morning training ride on the Gold Coast yesterday (January 12). Twenty four year old Harrop was one of two riders hit by a young female driver of a stolen Ford Laser in the suburb of Robina. Harrop was thrown from the car and sustained massive head injuries. He was rushed to Gold Coast Hospital in a critical condition and was put on a life support system. He died at noon with his family and close friends at his bedside.
It was at the exact time that his grief stricken triathlon mates honored their buddy with a peloton of honor on the Gold Coast race course, just prior to their round two race of the Accenture Triathlon Series at Surfers Paradise. The tragedy occurred at 6.20am on Saturday when Harrop, Brisbane’s 26 year old Craig O’Connell, and young Lincoln Stewart were riding in a breakaway pack of three, followed by a group of 20 triathletes in pursuit. It was a final training run before today’s Accenture Series race. The stolen car hit Harrop and O’Connell at speed. Harrop took the brunt of the impact while O’Connell was dragged on the car bonnet for 20 meters before rolling off the vehicle. He has two broken vertebrae in his back.
Stewart, the third member of the breakaway pack, dropped off the leaders just seconds before the impact and avoided the crash. All athletes are members of national coach Col Stewart’s Gold Coast training squad. The driver fled from the scene and abandoned the vehicle at a fruit market in Carrara. Squads of Gold Coast police have been searching for the driver and have appealed to her to report to police.
National Coach Stewart said Harrop was a world class athlete. “Luke was highly talented and very very smart. I train the world’s leading triathletes and he was right up there in the very top echelon,” said a devastated Col Stewart, whose younger son (Lincoln) was riding with the front pack. “He was a live wire, happy, sprightly, the life of the party. It is an unbelievable tragedy,” said Stewart.
A former Australian junior team member, David Burt, President of TA, said Harrop was a most promising talent. Last year he took 2nd overall in the 2001 Triathlon Australia National Series and 3rd in the Australian Sprint Championships. “He was a definite contender for this year’s Commonwealth and world championship team,” said Burt. “This was really going to be Luke’s year. He had a tremendous passion for the sport and the triathlon family. He was a great Aussie larrikin, he loved to party and was a great motivator. He has many many friends in triathlon and everyone is in terrible shock, said Burt.
A professional athlete, Harrop was contracted to the Accenture Triathlon Series and raced as seed no 10. His last race was the opening round of the Accenture Triathlon Series on December 23. Luke Harrop was the brother of Australian triathlon star Loretta Harrop – the 1999 world triathlon champion, Goodwill Games champion and Sydney 2000 Olympian.
Official Statement from the Harrop Family
In sadness we advise of the passing of Luke Harrop today at 12 noon. In the last two days, Luke has been surrounded by family, friends and the triathlon community. Luke’s injuries were unfortunately so severe that not even his determination and strength could overcome them. Luke is remembered to all as a son, a brother and a friend. His laughter and zest for life touched everyone around him. The family asks that the media respect their privacy at this time.