Tributes paid to ‘gentle Ironman’

Friends of Geoff Cornwall, who was killed while cycling his bike Tuesday morning, gather at the scene of the accident to lay a wreath in his memory. - Photo: James Whittaker

The cyclist killed on Cayman’s roads Tuesday was a well-known local athlete who was training to compete in an Ironman event in Mexico.

Friends and training partners of Geoff Cornwall gathered at the scene of the accident on the edge of the Esterley Tibbetts Highway late Tuesday afternoon to lay a wreath and light candles in tribute to the 56-year-old Australian.

“We were his family here on the island. We have lost a great friend,” said Cesar Aparil, recalling how Mr. Cornwall had taught him to swim.

“Geoff was a very down-to-earth person, very humble. He was always smiling, always encouraging his friends to push themselves,” he said.

Mr. Cornwall, a father of two, who worked at Butterfield Bank, was a triathlete, who regularly competed in cycling, swimming and running events, most recently the Stroke and Stride swimming and running series. He was planning to compete in the Cayman Islands national duathlon championships on Sunday.

At the time of the accident, Tuesday, he was training for the Cozumel Ironman event – an endurance triathlon involving a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile cycle and 26-mile run, scheduled for November.

Jalene Cruz, his regular training partner who is also entered into the Mexico race, said she would complete the event as a tribute to her friend.

“I am going to do it in his honor,” she said.

“He was always pushing me to do better and I am sure he will be with me, in spirit, at the finish line.”

She described him as a “gentle, soft-spoken guy” whose smile and friendly nature was combined with a competitive spirit.

“He was a hard-core athlete. Always training hard, always inspiring his training buddies to do better.”

Mr. Cornwall was part of a group of friends that rode, swam and cycled several times a week all over the island. Mr. Aparil described him as a leader in the group and someone who would always look out for his fellow riders and make sure everyone was safe.

Friends said he had lived on the island for more than a decade and competed in multiple marathons, triathlons and sea swims during that time.

“He must have done tens of thousands of miles competing in events in the Cayman Islands,” said Bill Fleury, another friend who estimated he had competed alongside Mr. Cornwall in between 50 and 100 events.

Geoff Cornwall, taking part in an Off the Beaten Track race in 2011.

Mr. Cornwall was riding his bike along the Esterley Tibbetts Highway, heading toward West Bay at around 7:30 a.m. Tuesday when his bike collided with a Mercedes-Benz SUV that had apparently pulled to a stop in the cycle lane.

Michael McWatt, managing director of the Butterfield Group, where Mr. Cornwall worked for 11 years, said he was a kind, hardworking person.”

He was recognized as a quiet and humble force within the organization and he will be deeply missed by his colleagues and friends.”

He said Mr. Cornwall is survived by his daughter Amy and son Jason.

“All of our thoughts and prayers are with them today,” he added.