“Mud run” Tragedy: Risk Management Run Amuck!
By Doyice Cotten
Thanks to Sandie Pendleton for sending me the link to this story.
Tony Weathers, a 30 year old fit athlete drowned in a Fort Worth’s “Original Mud Run” competition on April 14. The WFAA.com (Click for the whole story) story and the comments that follow it recount a tragic death, a public relations disaster, and what appears from the story to be a significant risk management failure. Below I will copy passages from the article and comments relating to the risk management of the event.
Risky Terminology: The Mud Run puts contestants on an obstacle course with challenges including “Hole to Hades,” “Leap of Faith” and “Stairway to Heaven.”
The Obstacle in Question: In the middle of the race, they swim across the Trinity River.
It is unclear why no one realized Weathers had gone under the water during the race.
About Tony Weathers: “Trying to keep him challenged was a challenge,” Moore said. “I just don’t know how it happened. He’s strong enough to pull himself out of that water. I don’t know if he was trampled, tangled, but it doesn’t make sense. Totally out of character for someone with that level of athleticism. Something went wrong. I don’t know what, but something went wrong.”
Friends say Weathers did know how to swim.
Organizer Statements: Organizers e-mailed WFAA saying they were making themselves available to assist the family in any way they could.
“Safety is paramount in our events and we are profoundly saddened by the loss of one of our participants,” the message said. Mud Run organizers said they would provide a formal statement on Monday.
The Original Mud Run Web site says it is not necessary to know how to swim in order to participate, “although it is recommended” and there are “guide ropes and lifeguards” in areas of water activities.
The Mud Run Web site also says it has paramedics or EMS personnel at each of its events. Fort Worth firefighters at the scene told News 8 that no one from their department had been engaged to work at Saturday’s race.
Comments by Competitors: Some of these comments by the organizers and the following competitor comments make it sound like there was no risk management. It does not take a risk management professional to spot things that are not as they should be. Make a list of risk management guidelines you can develop from this story and these comments. Note the bolded statements.
Paul Page · Universtiy of Texas at Arlington I was in the 2 pm run and we were the last event. Myself and others complained about lack of lifeguards. On our first crossing of the Trinity River which was the most difficult the lifeguard was on the bank not on the floating platform in the middle of the river. It was apparent (she was dry) that this person had not entered the water all day. Two of us actually stayed and killed our time to help people struggling to cross after we reached the other side. The rope was getting pushed far under water and people were attempting to swim.
Mia Walters · Founder and Creator at MiaDallas I was in the water with him and I keep preaching – This had NOTHING to do with swimming ability and EVERYTHING to do with gross negligence of Mud Run participants and should be shut down they learn proper safety procedures and ENFORCE them. Waivers DO NOT cover gross negligence. It was terrifying and makes complete sense how it happened. People were crying around us. I had my head pulled under by a panic-stricken woman. It was disgusting, and I can’t believe this event continues. It isn’t the man’s fault or his ability. It was the number of people they let in the water at once. EMS was only at the starting line, the river obstacles were over a mile from the starting line. They couldn’t have done anything. This wasn’t about swimming capability. This was about panic-stricken people grabbing people trying to save themselves and being dragged under the water, like I was dragged under. We were wearing PANTS and BOOTS which are required for the competitive division. No one could have known they’d be dragged under by drowning people.
Meredith Bowman · Angelo State University Agreed and when he ran it the EMS was gone when we finished. There was no water nothing. The place was a ghost town when the competitive groups finished the race. my friend and I ran it as a competitve team. they should be shut down and held accountable. the pick-up for packets was piss poor too. I don’t know what happened to this run. it use to be run so well. I even heard the young marines leader tell his kids he will never make them work it again because it was so poorly organized. No bathrooms for them to use.
Christina Derr · Tarrant County College Cornerstone Program They told them inability to swim isn’t an issue. Any responsible person wouldn’t say that. Going into the water without swimming ability is extremely dangerous. You have to realize that people that can’t swim don’t generally know the power of water so if someone who does know tells them it is safe, that is just as irresponsible as listening to them and going in. You have to swim across a river. You don’t need to know how to swim. Seems pretty contradictory and irresponsible to me. Especially with all of the recent rain.
Denena Bailey · I was in the 9am 10k run with Lauren Baker-Tracey and we saw how unsafe it was when we had to help people get out of the water in the first swim with TWO lifeguards that weren’t doing much of anything… Then the next swim there were NO lifeguards.the safty rope was not there.. we made the swim and started to run when we heard a cry for help so we turned around and ran back to the river to help get another man out…. very unsafe… we payed 60 plus to run this so why didn’t they have more safty help at the swim…..
Paul Page · Universtiy of Texas at Arlington You would think something would have been done about this since it was evident at the first run that dangers were being overlooked. Someone was not listening to participants complaints and someone lost their life because of that negligence. The lifeguard was chilling on the bank not working out on the platform. The conditions were too hazardous for this event.
You did not have to swim across the river. They had alternate routes. I personally witnessed people jumping in and then turning around saying “I can’t swim.” So why jump in?
Meredith Bowman · Very poorly organized. I ran during the time this man did and there were not enough life guards and no one said there was an alternative route unless you asked. This was not the only crossing where you had to swim. The last one was jumping on platforms and no one was there to monitor that. if you fell in there you were definitely out of luck. The competitive wave was last and when we were running not many monitoring the high dangerous areas. I believe any place you have to cross the Trinity needed much more supervision. I have done this race before but will not ever do it again. I am a pretty athletic person myself and the swim was pretty difficult for me. My teammate and I had to coach a kid to finish crossing the second swim location. It was definitely a dangerous course.
Jeremy Ames · Sr. Hey, that first swim was rough on me. I thought I could swim until then. After I got worn out, I was hoping that I could reach the bottom. Everyone was pulling the guide ropes down so you couldn’t actually use the ropes as they were intended.
Marshelle Alexander Meeks · Yes, you think, we’ll they’ve put this thing on a bajillion times. Surely, they are looking out for us. Bet The Original Mud Run and other challenge courses out there will all now re-evaluate their courses and see what can be made safer and still be “tough.” I think the ice baths and dangling electrical wires that some of the other ones have are ridiculous. Those don’t prove your tough. They prove your STUPID for doing them.
Lauren Tumlinson · Garland, Texas I ran the Mud Run on Saturday and I was in the noncompetitive group. The race was poorly organized, no one knew where they were supposed to go and many of the obstacles had no supervision. I was concerned throughout the course that someone was going to get severely injured. I never saw a lifeguard in the river.
v_valadez01 I participated in The Original Mud Run yesterday at 11:30 am in Ft Worth and while we were crossing the Trinity 4 people were drowning and there were no lifeguards or any personnel from the mud run. Two of those people drowning were related to me. It was very traumatizing. The rope that went from bank to bank was not tight in anyway. Yes the trinity is a hazard but having an unstable rope and a heavy current yesterday should have been a reason for them to close that obstacle. People from both sides of the bank were playing tug of war just to tighten the rope. Someone was able to call for help and the announcer that starts the race came out to the area and told all of us to back track in the water and get out. But what amazes me is the fact that I thought they were going to close that area and to my surprise they kept letting people cross. I will NEVER participate again.
Ollen Mullis Paul Page ‘BDUs in water”: So true: I bagged my wet boots & fatigues after the race & I’m sure they weighted 10-15 pounds. I can do ok in swim trunks, but with the extra weight, I quickly knew I was in trouble, felt the most fear for my life I’ve ever felt & turned around. The safety ropes were all but useless. The volunteers (credentials? qualifications?) were overwhelmed, I think. My team gladly took the bridges after our harrowing attempt on the 1st water crossing.
Darlyn Pickle The 2nd crossing had no one watching when i crossed. the water station was right before it but NO one was down at the river when i crossed or my son 10 mins later. unbelieveable. it was easier to cross in that no one had the rope but a tragedy that no lifeguards or race officials were supervising.
Photo Credit: Thanks to Mr. Buddy Suitman at http://www.flickr.com/photos/jpo2/3895892326/sizes/m/in/photostream/