CHAMPION ironman Dean Mercer has died after a car accident on the Gold Coast.
The Mercers are one of the first families of surf lifesaving, and the death of the 47-year-old sent shockwaves through the tight-knit surf community.
The brother of Darren Mercer and uncle of current star Jordan Mercer is believed to have suffered a heart attack while driving his car at Mermaid Waters about 7am Monday.
He crashed into a backyard fence near the Q Super Centre.
Paramedics performed CPR for about an hour before Mercer was transported to Gold Coast University Hospital, but he could not be saved.
He is survived by his wife Reen, also a former champion ironwoman and his four sons.
In a statement, Mercer’s family praised him as an amazing husband and loving father with a love of life and the surf.
“(He was) a champion bloke and a true champion in every sense of the word — taken from us too soon.”
Gold Coast Mayor Tom Tate also paid tribute to the fallen star.
“Dean Mercer’s passing is a sudden and tragic loss for our city,” he said.
“A husband, father and former ironman champion, Dean was an idol in the surf life saving world.
“The city’s thoughts and prayers are with Dean’s wife Reen and their family during this extremely difficult time.”
Lifesaving identity Ian Hanson described Mercer as a little Aussie battler in the ironman world with the heart of Phar Lap.
“No surf was too big, no opponent too tall,” he said.
Close mate and Kurrawa Surf Life Saving Club senior water coach Barry Newman said his phone ran hot after the crash this morning and said he was shocked to hear the news.
“I was with him last night,” he said.
“I picked him up with the family at Coolangatta airport.
“He’d been down (in Sydney) for his grandmother’s funeral.
“It’s all very fast.
“I’d hate to think (how Reen is) … it’s just not a good day.”
Mercer’s car crashed through the corrugated iron fence of a property on Barrier Reef Drive that backs on to Markeri Street at Mermaid Waters.
The owner of the property, who asked not to be named, said moments after the crash witnesses came forward saying they followed the driver out of the Q Super Centre carpark and across at least four lanes of traffic before watching him plough straight through the fence.
Mercer’s wife Reen is understood to have visited the scene of the crash before heading to Gold Coast University Hospital to be with her husband this morning.
One of the sport’s most decorated stars, Mercer was famously dogged in his determination to win an elusive Coolangatta Gold, continuing to compete in the endurance epic in to his 40s.
Growing up in the small NSW town of Thirroul, near Wollongong, Mercer had a 40-year involvement with surf lifesaving.
Mercer won two Australian crowns, an equal record five NSW state championships, two Test of the Toughest titles and the world Oceanman Series.
He also won an OAM for services to lifesaving and was inducted into the sport’s NSW Hall of Fame.
He later moved to the Sunshine Coast, enjoying considerable success with Mooloolaba.
Most recently, he had been coaching Nippers at Kurrawa on the Gold Coast, where he was a member of the club’s hall of legends.