News Local/State

U of I Wheelchair Athletes, Champaign Running Club, Appear Safe After Explosions


When explosions hit near the finish line of the Boston Marathon Monday afternoon, members of the University of Illinois Wheelchair Athletic program were just a couple of blocks away.  But a trainer says all team members are safe.

Marissa Siebel is an athletic trainer for the athletes. She said their group was returning to their hotel after lunch.

“It sounded like cannons had gone off, or fireworks. We were a couple of blocks away, and we noticed that people were running frantically, and sirens were going off," she said.  "There were fire trucks and police, ambulances. The whole area just became quite chaotic.”

Siebel said everybody who came to Boston from the U of I wheelchair athletic program are safe and accounted for - herself and 13 athletes.

By the time the explosions occurred, the U of I wheelchair group had already completed their competition.

Siebel said all of them completed their races, with one of them, Tatyana McFadden finishing first in the women’s wheelchair division.

Some team members have already left Boston, and others will be leaving today. Siebel said a few of them will be going on to London to compete at a marathon there.

While all of the U of I wheelchair team is safe, Siebel said they’re all shaken by the tragedy of the explosions, and the deaths and injuries they caused.

Meanwhile, a Boston Marathon participant from Urbana says members of her group all appear to be safe and accounted for.

Cynthia Ginsberg, a member of the Champaign-based Second Wind Running Club, said she had already completed the race about 30 minutes before the explosions, and only heard word of the news in her hotel room.

“I wasn’t clear immediately what was going on, but I did have one friend who finished just shortly before the blast, and she was pretty shaken up," she said.  "Because the phone lines were down, and she couldn’t reach her parents down there waiting for her to finish.”

Ginsberg says a flood of text messages and e-mails were sent between group members after the explosions, making sure club members were okay.

It was the fourth Boston Marathon for Ginsberg, who completed the route in 3 and a half hours, but says the tragic incidents cast a pall over any achievements.  She planned to fly out of Boston early Monday night.