Mekong bartender dies while competing in Robious Landing Triathlon

Local News

CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — A longtime bartender at Vietnamese restaurant Mekong in Henrico County died while competing in a triathlon Sunday morning.

The body of 35-year-old Quy P. Pham, of Henrico County, was found just before 2 p.m. Sunday, officials said.

Quy P. Pham

Witnesses told 8News that a swimmer appeared to be in distress and went missing during the first early swim wave of the Robious Landing Triathlon in Chesterfield County.

An 8News viewer sent in photos of a water rescue going on Sunday morning. They said first responders were on the scene immediately after the incident.

Henrico Police confirmed those reports saying that “an adult male in the upper James River was observed during the swimming obstacle and appeared to be in distress and went missing.”

That swimmer was later identified as Quy Pham — a father of two and beloved bartender.

Clay Cosby, an employee at The Answer Brewpub — a brewery in Richmond that is also owned by the same person who owns Mekong — told 8News that Pham was a bartender at Mekong for more than 10 years.

“The reality hasn’t set in yet,” Cosby said.

Employees tell 8News that Pham was loved by everyone in the community. He also served as a youth leader at the Vietnamese Eucharistic Youth Movement’s Don Bosco chapter and was very active at his church.

(A mural of Quy P. Pham at The Answer Brewpub)

Ian Stewart told 8News he was competing in the Robious Landing Triathlon Sunday for the fifth time and was saddened to learn someone had died during the course.

“It was a very sad time and just confusing probably for everybody,” he said. “You’re never expecting anything like this.

“We knew something was going on. It just kind of put a whole kind of dark cloud over everything.”

Stewart’s excitement quickly turned into concern as he waited in the water for his heat to start. He told 8News that’s when he saw.

“Two boats came in, a kayaker was in the water doing something and they were yelling for help,” he said. “And we had to float there for about 10 minutes wondering what was going and wondering what was happening.”

Stewart says when the first heat went, a man was struggling in the river by other participants and then when missing. Shortly thereafter, rescue crews started looking for the swimmer after the triathlon started around 7 a.m. Sunday.

His body was found hours later.

“It’s a mixed bag of emotion,” Stewart said. “On one hand I want to celebrate some of the achievements I was able to do but, you know it’s just a race and it’s not worth anyone going through that. So I’m so sad for their family.”

Henrico Fire, Henrico Police, Chesterfield Fire, Chesterfield Police, and Game and Inland Fisheries are investigating the incident.

James Horvath has lived in the area for more than 20 years and told 8News he was shocked by the incident.

“I’ve never heard of anybody disappearing not even kids boating of anything like that,” Horvath said. “You hear about it at the rapids up there but I’ve never heard about anything here.”

8News reporter Alex Thorson will have a full report tonight on 8News at 5 and 6.

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