CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A Maryland woman whose son drowned last year along an obstacle course in West Virginia has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the organizers of the Tough Mudder event.
The lawsuit filed by Mita Sengupta alleges Tough Mudder LLC failed to follow basic safety precautions that led to the April 2013 death of Avishek Sengupta, 28, of Ellicott City, Maryland.
The death occurred a day after he was pulled from the water pit on the “Walk the Plank” obstacle at the Peacemaker National Training Center in Glengary. The obstacle involves climbing up a wooden wall to a platform, then jumping 15 feet into a water pit. A medical examiner ruled he drowned.
Tough Mudder didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment Tuesday. Peacemaker National, event water rescue coordinator Amphibious Medics and corporate sponsor General Mills, are also named in the lawsuit, declined comment, along with rescue diver Travis Pittman, who didn’t have a listed telephone number.
It marked the first fatality for Brooklyn, New York-based Tough Mudder, which debuted in 2010 and holds dozens of events worldwide each year. It had two such events in Glengary last year and will stage another there on Sept. 27-28. Portions of the 11-mile course also run through Virginia.
Tough Mudder participants must be at least 18 years old and sign a liability waiver.
The lawsuit said in response to complaints on social media from participants, event organizers took steps to reduce wait times and increase the flow of participants through the obstacle, including abandoning or failing to adopt certain safety measures that led to Sengupta’s death.
The lawsuit said the obstacle was overcrowded, had no lane divider to prevent participants from hitting each other after jumping, had no system of tracking participants from the time they jumped until the time they exited the pool. It also said there was only one volunteer at the obstacle.
“The lone volunteer atop the platform … was ordering participants to jump off the platform while his back was turned to the water, so that he had no idea whether or not the pool was clear of participants below,” the lawsuit said.
The lawsuit said immediately after Sengupta left the platform, a woman jumped onto Sengupta in the pool and the collision prevented Sengupta from surfacing. No safety personnel noticed. The platform volunteer allowed three additional jumps.
An investigation report previously released by the Berkeley County sheriff’s department concluded there was no indication Sengupta had been struck before or after entering the pit. Citing witness accounts, the report said members of Sengupta’s group became frantic when he didn’t emerge, and several minutes elapsed before he was pulled from the pit’s cold, muddy waters.
The lawsuit said Pittman wasn’t wearing his rescue equipment when he was summoned and didn’t enter the water until more than 2 minutes after Sengupta went under.
Following the death, Tough Mudder said safety procedures on the course were closely examined. Additional safety rails were added to “Walk the Plank” and lifeguards changed their focus to specific areas of the pit.
The Journal of Martinsburg first reported the lawsuit, which seeks unspecified damages and was filed April 18.