Kelvin Kiptum celebrates after winning the 2023 Chicago Marathon and setting a world record marathon time of 2:00.35 in Grant Park on October 8, 2023 in Chicago, Illinois. (Credit: Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

(CNN) --

Current marathon world record holder Kelvin Kiptum and his coach Gervais Hakizimana died Sunday night in a traffic accident outside the Rift Valley town of Eldoret, confirmed Kenyan police

The 24-year-old Kenyan athlete, who was driving a Toyota Premio, and his coach died at the scene of the accident, Elgeyo Marakwet County Police Commander Peter Mulinge told CNN.

A third occupant survived and has serious injuries, Mulinge added.

"He lost control, went off the road, entered a ditch 60 meters away and hit a large tree," Mulinge said. The accident occurred around 11 pm local time.

Kiptum's world marathon record of 2:00:35, set at the Chicago Marathon in October last year, was ratified just a few days ago by the World Athletics Association. Kiptum had switched from running shorter distances to marathons a year before breaking the record.

advertising

He improved his personal best by 50 seconds and beat the record of 2:01:09 set by his compatriot Eliud Kipchoge, considered the best marathoner of all time. Kiptum was believed to be Kipchoge's successor and a possible contender to run the sub-two-hour marathon.

Hakizimana, 36, was a Rwandan professional athlete who participated in various races, from the 5,000 meters to the half marathon.

Remains of the vehicle in which Kenyan marathon world record holder Kelvin Kiptum and his coach died in a traffic accident near the Rift Valley town of Eldoret on February 12. (Credit: Reuters)

"A tragic loss"

Figures from across the world of athletics and long-distance running offered tributes and mourned the loss of an athlete in his prime.

World Athletics President Sebastian Coe said Kiptum was "an incredible athlete who leaves an incredible legacy. "He will be greatly missed."

"We are shocked and deeply saddened to learn of the devastating loss of Kelvin Kiptum and his coach, Gervais Hakizimana," Coe said. "On behalf of all World Athletics, we send our deepest condolences to their families, friends, teammates and the Kenyan nation."

Coe added that "just earlier this week in Chicago, the place where Kelvin set his extraordinary marathon world record, I was able to officially ratify his historic time."

"On behalf of all our colleagues and their friends at Golazo (Management Group), we send our deepest condolences to their family, friends and the entire athletics family," Verbeeck said in a statement.

Messages of condolence also poured in on Kiptum's official Instagram account after the news of his death was announced.

London Marathon organizers shared a message on X. "We are shocked and deeply saddened. The thoughts of everyone at the TCS London Marathon are with the family and friends of Kelvin and Gervais."

Kiptum's loss will be felt in Chicago, said Carey Pinkowski, executive race director of the Bank of America Chicago Marathon, where Kipton made history in 2023.

“Kelvin was a once-in-a-generation athlete,” Pinkowski said. "While he will be celebrated for his record-breaking performances, I will remember him as an incredible talent and an even more magnificent person."

"We were lucky enough to witness his greatness on the streets of Chicago," he added. "The sport of the marathon has suffered a tragic loss."

Kenyan Olympians have also expressed their regret. Double Olympic gold medalist David Rudisha, who survived a plane crash in 2022, called Kiptum's death a "huge loss." "My condolences to the families, friends, athletic fraternity and Kenya in general," Rudisha wrote on X.

"I am shocked to learn of the tragic accident that took the lives of Kevin Kiptum and his coach today," said Bernard Lagat, five-time Olympian and middle-distance runner. "They're gone too soon. RIP Champion."

Australian Robert de Castella, a former world marathon champion, said: "A superstar in the making has gone. It highlights how precious life is and how vulnerable we all are."

Kenya's former prime minister was also among those who paid their respects. On X's account of him, Raila Odinga called the death "devastating news" and praised Kiptum as an icon of Kenyan athletics. "Our nation mourns the profound loss of a true hero."

Kenyan Sports Minister Ababu Namwamba also shared his condolences in X: "Kenya has lost a special gem. Without words."