Police identify Special Olympian who died after swimming competition

A 48-year-old woman died Saturday after suffering a medical emergency during the 25-yard backstroke competition at Special Olympics Maryland's annual Summer Games at Towson University.

Tresaraie Dalana Shavers was less than 10 yards from finishing the race when her jaw tightened, her head dipped below the surface and she stopped moving forward, longtime coach Phil Wetzler said.


Medical staff at the event and Baltimore County medics performed CPR on the Reisterstown woman. She was taken by ambulance to University of Maryland St. Joseph Medical Center, where she died, according to a police report.

Shavers, who went by the name Tressie, had participated in Special Olympics Maryland swimming events since 2009, organizers said.

On Sunday, the closing day of the competition, Special Olympics officials, volunteers and athletes held a memorial and moment of silence, Wetzler said.

Wetzler coached Shavers for more than a decade and had picked her up from her home that morning.

"She had such heart and such a great sense of humor, and such a wonderful voice," he said. "This gal had so much spunk."

Volunteers helped Shavers into the pool at Burdick Hall about 11 a.m. for her first race, which was one length of the pool, Wetzler said. She was swimming slowly, he said, but there was no indication of any health problems before coaches spotted her in distress.

Two coaches and another woman jumped into the pool to rescue her. They told police she appeared to be unconscious but breathing when she was removed.

Wetzler said Shavers lay by the side of the pool for about 45 minutes while medics performed CPR, before she was taken to the hospital. Special Olympics Maryland spokesman Jason Schriml said he could not confirm that timeline.

Baltimore County firefighters arrived at the pool about five to seven minutes after 911 was called, fire Capt. Lonnie Ledford said. They treated Shravers for about 20 minutes at the side of the pool.

Schriml said event organizers are waiting to learn the cause of Shavers' death from the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner before looking at "appropriate responses" to ensure safety.

"Tressie was a brave, determined and vibrant young woman, and was taking positive steps to improve her health and fitness," Special Olympics Maryland officials said in a statement. "We mourn and celebrate her life and ask everyone to please respect the privacy of her family and her Special Olympics family during this difficult time."

Shavers was active with the League for People with Disabilities, a Baltimore organization that helps people with disabilities gain independence, and frequently sang at public events.

David Greenberg, the league's CEO, said she found her love for swimming and training for Special Olympics races in the league's therapeutic pool.

"She died doing what she loved so much in life," Greenberg said. "Her eyes would beam when she would talk about races she had swum in."


About 1,500 athletes competed in the Special Olympics Maryland event between Friday and Sunday. Events including swimming, track and field, bocce ball, cheerleading and softball.

Baltimore Sun reporters Carrie Wells and Colin Campbell contributed to this article.