Sam Clayton Jr., Jamaican Bobsledder Who Inspired 'Cool Runnings,' Dead at 58 Due to the Coronavirus

Sam Clayton Jr., who was part of the first Jamaican Bobsled Team, has died from the coronavirus. According to the New York Times, Clayton passed away on March 31 in Kingston, Jamaica. He was 58. His death was confirmed by David R. Hinds, who is the frontman of the British group Steel Pulse’s that Clayton served as a sound engineer for.

Remembering Clayton as a "well-rounded individual," Hinds added that, "most important of all, in this thieving, cutthroat music industry of ours, he was trustworthy. Where Sam towered over the rest of his peers, is that he held dearly every task he did, no matter how small, or how tedious. They all got his relentless undivided attention."

Born in St. Andrew, Jamaica in 1961, Clayton followed in his father’s musical footsteps and made contributions to the music world as a producer, sound engineer and manager in Jamaica's reggae scene. However, he was best known for being part of the Jamaican bobsled team in its early days. The team eventually qualified for the 1988 Winter Olympics in Canada, their efforts inspiring the Disney movie Cool Runnings.

"I am saddened by the news of the passing of my teammate Samuel Clayton. I haven't spoken with him in many years but news of his untimely death was a punch to the gut," Devon Harris, one member of the Olympics team, said, Sports Max reports. "Although he never made the Olympic team Sammy was an integral part of the Jamaica bobsled team. He was among the very first four selected to spearhead Jamaica’s entrance into Winter sports and the Winter Olympics. The first time I ever went down a bobsled run, Sammy was the driver. We had some fun. He was my roommate, we became friends and he was definitely a trailblazer, a patriot, who competed fiercely while representing Jamaica and obviously went on to blaze a trail in the music industry as well. He was an amazing human being who will be sadly missed."

Chris Stokes, the President of the Jamaica Bobsleigh Association whose brother Dudley Stokes was selected to be the driver at the 1988 Olympics, remembered Clayton for his bravery.

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"Not everyone is going to be willing to get into a bobsled and drive down a hill at 70mph. That to me takes tremendous courage," Stokes said. "He didn't have a long history of people doing it and he agreed to that which set the pace for the team going towards the Olympics. Sammy was loved and made a tremendous contribution, so we say thank you for that. He was willing to take the first step."

Clayton is survived by his wife, Annie Clayton, a daughter, three sons and three grandchildren.