(WXYZ) – As if losing their son wasn’t bad enough, now the family of one of the three runners who died at the recent Detroit marathon says they aren’t getting answers they so desperately need.
Laura Fenlon was up north with her husband when they got the call.
Laura Fenlon: “You need to come home right away.”
It was the hospital where Jon Fenlon was first taken.
Laura Fenlon: “He said, ‘Your son was in the Detroit marathon today.’ ”
Laura had forgotten all about the race.
Laura Fenlon: “He goes, ‘Well, he crossed the finish line and he collapsed. You know everybody was working on him and everything’ and I’m still waiting for him to say he is in intensive care, he’s going to be okay.”
But Jon was not okay. In a strange and horrible tragedy, he was one of three runners who died that day. Was it just an incredible coincidence for the Detroit racers or was something more going on? The Fenlon’s are desperate for answers.
Laura Fenlon: “Give us an answer, tell us, did they find something?”
But Laura Fenlon says all she and her family are getting from the Wayne County Medical Examiner’s office is the runaround.
Laura Fenlon: “We’ve called, and someone said three weeks, someone said four weeks. Called again yesterday, they said could be six to eight weeks.”
That’s how long the medical examiner’s office said it would take to get them an answer.
Laura Fenlon: “My mom called, my mother-in-law called. My husband’s called probably eight or nine times and every time he’s told something different.”
Jon Fenlon was just 26 years old when he collapsed after crossing the finish line at the Detroit Free Press/Flagstar Marathon last month.
Laura Fenlon: “No health problems at all. He’s in hockey, he’s in soccer, he goes backpacking, you know, tubing. I mean, he’s just does everything.”
The Fenlons are not the only ones who want answers.
Stephen Clark: Daniel Langdon was 36 years old and lived in Laingsburg near Lansing. Much like us, his wife wants answers to many of the same questions we are asking. She agreed to talk to us, but the agony of waiting for those answers has taken a toll and she cancelled the interview.
There was also a third victim 65-year-old Rick Brown of Marietta, Ohio, who died during the race.
Laura Fenlon: “This doesn’t make sense, all three of them, all the exact symptoms.”
All three men collapsed and died within about 20 minutes of each other. The Wayne County Medical Examiner’s office would not talk to Action News on camera. But they first told us it would take six to eight weeks to complete the autopsies. Days later they said it would take four to six weeks. But a world-renown expert says that is twice as long as it should take.
Dr. Werner Spitz: “Three weeks is long.”
Dr. Werner Spitz is the former Wayne County Medical Examiner and expert in pathology. He’s handled plenty of big cases in his career and says the runner’s autopsies should take top priority. Was it a strange trio of personal health problems or could others be at risk?
Dr. Werner Spitz: “It raises big questions about something that may connect the three cases that needs to be ruled out as soon as possible for fear that there may be other people who may suffer from same thing.”
What Dr. Spitz does not believe is that the runners contracted an illness from one another.
Dr. Spitz: “Highly, highly unlikely. You need time for that to develop. You need time for the disease to take hold of the certain areas of the body, especially the heart muscle.”
He is not officially involved in the case. But based on what has been reported so far, he speculates that their deaths could be the result of poisoning—accidental or intentional.
Spitz: “Maybe they all ate the same cookie that had something in it, or who knows. That is why it is so important to hurry up and do it.”
But the Wayne County Medical Examiner’s office told Action News they can’t prioritize one case over another. Meanwhile the Fenlons are waiting for an answer.
Laura Fenlon: “It’s not going to bring Jon back, but we would like maybe to get an answer.”
The Detroit Police Department tells Action News that the runners’ deaths are not being viewed as homicides. They also say the medical examiner’s preliminary findings do not suggest that the police department needs to launch an investigation.