A tragedy at a Tough Mudder race in West Virginia is raising questions about the safety of the events, and has prompted organizers to take a closer look at the obstacles.
Police say 28-year-old Avishek Sengupta of Ellicott City, Md., was found last Saturday in water at the "Walk the Plank" obstacle of a Tough Mudder event near Glengary. He died the next day at a northern Virginia hospital; a medical examiner said Sengupta drowned.
Many people here in the Tampa Bay area have participated in the popular events.
"We were talking about it at the last race and we were quite surprised that no one has passed," said Lenny Destefano.
He knows the races, finishing seven in a year.
"It wouldn't be exciting if it wasn't a little dangerous," he said.
The Tough Mudder course is more than 12 miles with 25 obstacles. It's messy, muddy, and if the large walls and jumps don't wear you down, the live electric wires just might.
"I think just about everybody got shocked at least once. I did. It was actually pretty painful," Destefano said.
The race is painful and extreme by design, but not intended to risk your life. But the death of an athlete in West Virginia who jumped off a plank and was later found dead in the water has the national organization looking in the mirror.
"We're looking particularly at safety protocols of each of our obstacles, and looking at everything from obstacle design and integrity to the way that we brief and manage emergency personnel on site, and the way we manage volunteers," said Tough Mudder marketing director Ashley Pinakiewicz.
The courses are built specifically for race day and Destefano observed that not everything holds up so well.
"As the day goes on, you can tell the course starts to deteriorate. What used to be level footing is now covered in mud, some of the hay bales deteriorate. Things start to get a little more challenging," he said.
That challenge is what keeps luring some athletes back, despite the risk.
"Would I do it again? Absolutely," Destefano said.
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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