LAKE PLACID, N.Y. - An apparent drunken-driving accident Monday afternoon ended what was expected to be one of the feel-good stories of the Winter Olympics.
Jack Shea, who won two gold medals in speed skating at the 1932 Winter Olympics, died early yesterday from injuries he suffered in a car accident less than a mile from his home.
As the senior member of three generations of Winter Olympians - a first - the 91-year-old had become a media star in his hometown, the scene of his athletic triumph.
Just last month, his grandson, Jim Shea Jr., gave him "a priceless thrill" when he qualified for the U.S. Olympic skeleton team. The eldest Shea's son, Jim Shea Sr., competed in the Nordic combined and two cross country ski races at the 1964 Winter Games in Innsbruck, Austria.
Mitt Romney, the president of the Salt Lake Organizing Committee, said there had been plans to honor Shea as the oldest living gold medalist during the opening ceremony on Feb. 8, and called his death "a blow to the Olympic movement."
The accident occurred about 4:30 p.m. when a van driven by Herbert J. Reynolds, 36, of Saranac Lake, N.Y., slid out of control on an icy road and slammed head-on into Shea's vehicle.
Reynolds, who suffered a minor facial injury, was arrested on multiple charges, including driving while intoxicated and speeding.
Shea, nicknamed "Chief," was known for his humility and principles. In 1936, he boycotted the Winter Games in Germany and gave up the chance to medal again, calling Hitler's government "a crime against humanity."
He also worked tirelessly to bring the Olympics back to Lake Placid in 1980, calling it "a final medal" in his career.