Source: USA Today
In April 2013, Avishek Sengupta lost his life to a Tough Mudder obstacle course in West Virginia. His mother, Mita Sengupta, filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the organizers of the Tough Mudder event. She alleged that Tough Mudder LLC failed to follow basic safety procedures that led to her son's death.
The event, known as “Walk the Plank,” is a 15 foot drop from a wooden platform into cold, muddy waters. The man-made pit was 13 feet deep and an estimated 41 to 54 degrees fahrenheit.
The victim’s mother claims that organizers were more concerned about managing volume than focusing on individual participants. There was only one volunteer at the obstacle ordering participants to jump off the platform while his back was turned to the water. Immediately after Mr. Sengupta left the platform, the suit claims that a woman jumped onto Mr. Sengupta in the pool. Unbeknownst to the platform volunteer, the collision prevented Mr. Sengupta from surfacing. The platform volunteer allowed three additional jumps.
An emergency diver was present at the Tough Mudder event, but the diver wasn't wearing his rescue equipment when he was summoned. There were also four water safety technicians present, but only one of the four “waded” into the water. According to the court report, “none of the [water safety technicians] were prepared to submerge.” The lead rescue diver did not enter the water until more than two minutes after the victim went under. His credentials were expired at the time of the event.
Friends became frantic when they realized Mr. Sengupta had not emerged.
The estate seeks compensatory and punitive damages, likely for medical bills, funeral expenses, emotional trauma and so forth. Mr. Sengupta spent days in the hospital before he died and his mother lost her beloved son. Tough Mudder states that there were 74 rescue personnel at the event, but there were also 11,000 participants. That is 1 rescuer for every 147 people. This appears to be mean that the event was woefully understaffed, given the strenuous nature of the competition.
I think the victim’s mother is entirely justified in alleging that the Tough Mudder organizers were negligent in how they staffed and managed the event. Similar to theme parks and public attractions, an obstacle course must take all of the necessary precautions to ensure a safe and fun event. Especially since the event itself is so physically demanding and involves close physical contact, organizers need to demand a greater sense of alertness and urgency from emergency response workers.
Tough Mudder either needs to implement the fundamental precautions for the safety of their participants, or admit their greater interest in protecting their image, which cost Avishek Sengupta his life.