Michael Veith, former finance department head, dies during triathlon swim

Michael Veith was a popular county department head during the administration of former Mayor JoAnn Yukimura, and a former President and Chief Operating Officer of the National Tropical Botanic Garden at Lawa‘i.

Veith died Sunday during his relay team’s 1.2 mile swim leg of the Troika Triathlon in Spokane, Wash., according to a report on The Spokesman-Review.com news Web site out of Spokane. He was 58 and was about 125 yards from the finish line when he experienced trouble in the water along the Medical Lake course.

Firefighters and water rescue crews on hand at the event immediately began CPR on Veith after he was spotted floating motionless on the course.

Initial reports said Veith drowned, while a heart attack or stroke is also suspected as the cause of death. The Spokane County medical examiner’s office is yet to release an autopsy report.

A memorial is planned tomorrow in Spokane. He is survived by his wife Cristi, the couple were married for 36 years. They have two sons.

In 2001 Veith was on a swim relay team that set a national age group record. He regularly swam in the Waikiki Rough Water swim on O‘ahu.

Veith was a veteran who saw combat action during the Vietnam War.

His passion outside of triathlons and swimming was developing clean-energy hydrogen power systems. Veith’s company H2 Power Systems LCC is developing a demonstration project for hydrogen fuel cells to be located at the National Tropical Botanical Garden at Lawa‘i. Veith called hydrogen power a non-toxic source of energy that gave off pure water as a byproduct.

Kaua‘i’s state Rep. Mina Morita, D-North Kaua‘i, a leading proponent of hydrogen power in Hawai‘i, said, “It’s hard to lose such a personal and professional friend, he had such a passion for hydrogen and fuel cells, and he always boosted my morale.”

Morita said Veith was talking up hydrogen fuel cells as a solution for the world’s power needs over ten years ago, a time when few had heard of the technology.

“He remained a good friend of Kaua‘i,” Morita said of Veith, who made visits back to the island each year.

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